This story ran in The Boston Herald on 1/24/2003.
© Copyright 2003 The Boston Herald.

Developers sought for waterfront
by Scott Van Voorhis

Massport reached out yesterday for developers to help it carve up 30 acres of South Boston waterfront.

With much of Southie's once-gritty waterfront claimed for pricey condo, hotel and office projects, the Massachusetts Port Authority wants to redevelop a large still-vacant tract of harborside land there as a ship terminal or other marine business.

Massport, the government agency that runs Logan International Airport and the Hub's port, said it will seek developers to work up plans for the mostly undeveloped Massport Marine Terminal acreage near the Harborlights performance stage and Black Falcon shipping terminal.

Massport's project comes as another major public works effort is beginning to wind down.

The Central Artery project uses a large part of the 30-acre site - also known as the ``Subaru Pier'' for its one-time use as an auto import dock - as a way station for excavated dirt. Big Dig officials plan to vacate the waterfront site over the next three or four years, opening it to new uses.

Massport officials said they are open to proposals to revamp the site into a cargo terminal or for local marine businesses to use parts of the site. An adjacent 10-acre swath will host fish processing plants, officials said.

Lowell Richards, Massport's development chief, said the sprawling site is an ideal location for a cargo terminal and a mix of other marine businesses with the potential to create hundreds of jobs.

Still, some of the existing infrastructure may need work before it can be used for some purposes. The North Jetty needs an estimated $2.5 million fix-up if it is to be used for unloading heavy cargo, Massport documents show.

Critics have claimed that Massport hasn't done enough to protect maritime and fishing businesses in Southie's rapidly changing Seaport District. But Richards said the site holds the potential to become the biggest marine/industrial project on the Hub waterfront in decades.

``You don't get deep-water maritime port opportunities of this magnitude very often, certainly not in the Northeast,'' Richards said.

``We are talking about the potential for the largest maritime development in Boston Harbor in 20 to 30 years,'' he said.

Massport is a major landowner in the once rough-and-tumble area of Southie docks and warehouses. It has been a leader in redeveloping the waterfront area, aiding creation of Boston's World Trade Center and the office and hotel buildings that face it.

Massport also recently put up for grabs a large, additional block of land near the trade center and the $800 million convention center rising nearby. Massport is pitching that acreage to developers as a hotel/retail/residential site.

Massport uses such high-priced and lucrative commercial development to offset money-losing port operations. Critics contend that bringing in luxury apartments, offices and eventually retail stores will permanently alter the character of the area and slowly squeeze out traditional marine- and fishing-related businesses.

``The land they are putting out for bid has been used for the Central Artery. We think it's pretty exciting the land will finally be returned to create jobs in the maritime industries,'' said Vivien Li, executive director of the Boston Harbor Association.

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