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This story ran on page E1 of the Boston Globe on 6/13/2002.
© Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company.

Fan Pier plan clears last hurdle
By Thomas C. Palmer Jr., Globe Staff, 6/13/2002

Fan Pier, at 1.3 million square feet the largest proposed private development project on the South Boston Waterfront, yesterday cleared the final hurdle in a three-year approval process.

State environmental officials, in issuing a consolidated permit for construction of nine buildings on waterfront land, required that parks, water transportation, and other public amenities be completed early in what could be a decade or more of phased construction.

The permit requires that even if only four or five buildings are built over the next decade, all of the space designated for public use be created and kept open for general use. And an estimated $5.5 million will be spent on water transportation, both for a publicly accessible marina and as a transit operating subsidy.

Although the document is technically a draft, it is expected to be the final word from the state Department of Environmental Protection on the overall plan by the Chicago-based Pritzker family to develop a key piece of South Boston industrial land.

Fan Pier Land Co., a subsidiary of a Pritzker company, will be required to apply for permits for each of the nine buildings planned, but approval of those separate phases is not expected to take more than a couple of months at each stage.

Bob Durand, state secretary of Environmental Affairs, said yesterday the license now being issued will allow construction to begin immediately. The project - including a hotel, office and residential space, retail, parking, and civic and cultural space - already has received approval from the city of Boston.

''We insisted on certain benefits for the public good,'' Durand said. ''We didn't want it privatized, walled off from the rest of the city, and we got what we wanted here.''

Kyle Warwick, a principal at Spaulding & Slye Colliers, which is the local partner with the Pritzker family, said he was happy the license came as quickly as expected.

He said his team would respond to the draft within 10 days ''and we believe the final decision will be issued immediately thereafter. There will be technical issues that are hammered out.''

Stephanie L. Pollack, senior attorney at the Conservation Law Foundation, one of several organizations that pushed for more public access within what will be a waterfront minicity, said there was good news and bad news in yesterday's draft document.

''The good thing is it moves ahead a project which at full buildout is going to make a huge contribution to the South Boston Waterfront,'' she said. ''Even if the private development takes a long time, the public development is front-loaded.''

But, Pollack said, the public should have more than 10 days to review the details of what is required of the developer. ''The most troubling thing is this is really the first time the public is going to learn what benefits it's going to get when,'' she said.

Public hearings were held on the Fan Pier plans, but the presentations were general and not well attended, Pollack said.

Vivien Li, executive director of the Boston Harbor Assocation, another organization with a strong interest in the future of the waterfront, was pleased with the document, which clears the way for Fan Pier's Chapter 91 permit allowing waterfront development.

''This is a very good step,'' Li said. ''There's a strong component for water transportation.''

Tying the creation of public space to early phases of construction is positive, she said. ''The phasing will allow the public to enjoy this section of the waterfront in a much more timely fashion than had orginally been anticipated.''

The draft issued yesterday requires specifically that:

Two-thirds of a 2-acre public greenspace, along with a waterfront Harborwalk, be completed as the first building is built.

A water transportation dock and ticketing office must be created in tandem with construction of the second building. The future site of the Institute of Contemporary Art will be a public lawn until the structure is built.

At least one of the civic or cultural uses - the ICA, a gateway to the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area, or a Family Multicultural Center - must be built along with the fifth and sixth buildings.

Thomas C. Palmer Jr. can be reached at tpalmer@globe.com.
This story ran on page E1 of the Boston Globe on 6/13/2002.
© Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company.

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