This story ran on page C1 of the Boston Globe on 4/25/2003.
© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.

'Sausage parcel' whets developers' appetite
By Thomas C. Palmer Jr., Globe Staff, 4/25/2003

It's an odd-shaped, three-quarters of an acre South Boston Waterfront piece of land isolated between new Big Dig ramps, with an unsightly ventilation building looming over it. But some developers can't wait to get their hands on it. It's known as the ''sausage parcel,'' evoking its elongated shape along Congress Street. It is one of a number of new and odd-shaped parcels created as the $14.6 billion highway construction project carved a new face into parts of the city.

Yet even in today's rocky economy, when Fan Pier developers wince at proceeding with plans to build a a hotel and Marriott has pushed construction of its D Street hotel to next year, there is avid interest in the sausage parcel.

It will take a lot of time and work to pull it off, but the land is considered a prime spot for a hotel with 400-plus rooms, or possibly residences.

''We are not now actively marketing the parcel,'' said Donald Anastasia, the assistant treasurer of NStar, which owns the land. ''We nevertheless have received a few good offers.''

One initial problem with the land was that it was an island, with no vehicular access from any side. As Anastasia put it: ''You have to fly to it.''

But in recent months NStar has worked with the Boston Transportation Department, Massachusetts Highway Department, and federal officials to win an agreement that an entrance from Congress Street would be acceptable, he said.

A prospective sale to Intell Management and Investment Co. fell through last year. Anastasia estimated the value of the land at about $10 million.

It was once designated for a low-rise electrical substation, but the demand for electricity in the area has not developed as anticipated. So company officials are ''99 percent sure we'll sell it,'' Anastasia said, probably this year.

Despite what seems like slow-motion development of real estate on the South Boston Waterfront, however, clearly some believe this will one day be a booming area.

''I think it's a great site, a great location with great views,'' said Brian L.P. Fallon, managing director of Intell, which had an option on the land but in the end declined to buy. Intell is moving ahead with a hotel on another former NStar site, to be built around the Big Dig's ventilation stacks at 500 Atlantic Ave.

The addition of another hotel to the Seaport District in South Boston would please the city and delight Massachusetts Convention Center Authority officials, who are hoping to increase the number of beds within walking distance of the new Boston Convention and Exhibition Center.

''It would be a nice addition to the Seaport and convention center,'' said Fallon. ''It's close to them -- not to mention the airport and the Financial District.'' The new convention center is slated to open in a little over a year.

''It's right across from the convention center,'' said Boston Redevelopment Authority director Mark Maloney. ''We need the hotels for that.''

Jeffrey S. Tompkins, a principal at Spagnolo Gisness & Associates, consulted as an urban planner for Intell and helped draw up architectural plans for a hotel.

''We looked at three to four different hotel programs on that site, with or without parking,'' Tompkins said. ''It would need to be at least 20 stories.''

That kind of height would make a hotel on the unconventional site financially feasible, and as a bonus would shield the unsightly Big Dig ventilation building on Summer Street from the view of many on the harbor side of Congress.

At 250 feet, a building on the sausage parcel would be roughly the same height as the World Trade Center East and West office towers. The entrance could be similar to the one at the Millennium Bostonian Hotel, where cars turn off a busy street into a rotary or other loading area within the hotel's walls.

NStar says it has other prospective locations for an electrical substation -- whenever development in the area creates a demand for more electrical power.

One of those who has expressed an interest in the site is developer Frank McCourt. McCourt owns another oddly named piece of land -- the so-called ''pill'' parcel -- nearby, and the two might tango together into a significant single project.

A new building constructed on both parcels that straddles the ramps to the west of the sausage parcel could even provide another welcome walking path to the convention center, which has been faulted for being insufficiently accessible for pedestrians.

Another interested developer is Lincoln Property Co., which could build residences or include a mix of uses.

A working hotel on the sausage parcel may be years off, but for the city promises of development are better than no development at all.

''It's obviously a site that's been eyed by a lot of parties for a hotel,'' said NStar's Anastasia, ''and that's helpful to the city on a lot of counts right now.''

Thomas C. Palmer Jr. can be reached at

This story ran on page C1 of the Boston Globe on 4/25/2003.
© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.

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