This story ran on page C1 of the Boston Globe on 5/6/2003.
© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.

Developers vie for rights to 12 key waterfront acres
By Thomas C. Palmer Jr., Globe Staff, 5/6/2003

Developers competing for the rights to 12 key acres in the middle of the South Boston Waterfront are planning housing, retail space, a hotel, parking -- and possibly a year-round skating rink.

All four teams of developers that responded to a January request for expressions of interest in the Massachusetts Port Authority's so-called Core Block have been designated as qualified to submit specific proposals due by midsummer, port officials said yesterday.

The three pieces that make up the Core Block are central to Boston's vast undeveloped Seaport area, though scattered around the new, below-grade Interstate 90 highway extension that was part of the Big Dig.

The plots of land are important because they will eventually connect other projects that are either underway or on hold, including the new Boston convention center, Manulife Financial's tower, a mixed-use project with a hotel on D Street, and the sizable tracts on Fan Pier as well as those just to the south that local developer Frank McCourt owns.

The Core Block is the largest Massport development site on the waterfront and has the potential to ''accommodate a project that can `make the district,' not just add to it,'' according to a letter that Massport's director of planning and development, Richard Henderson, sent to the four teams late last week.

Lowell Richards, Massport's chief development officer, said the agency would choose a developer by December, based on how much revenue it would generate over a 95-year lease, as well as what uses are proposed, and how fast the project can be completed.

Developers responding to the January request were not required to submit details of their plans. But, according to the teams, at least two would envision a 1,700-car garage to be built in the air-rights space over the highway.

Rental apartments and/or condominiums -- plus a 400-room hotel -- would make up much of the rest of the 1.5 million-square-foot project, representatives of the four teams said yesterday.

With the office space market in the doldrums, none of the developers emphasized much of that, and Massport executives have other nearby land designated for future office use anyway.

The four teams will go to work now filling in the details of their general proposals.

One proposal that stands out is that of the Drew Co., Fidelity Investments, and Urban Retail Properties Co., which includes an indoor ice-skating and hockey rink on one 10,000-square-foot lot.

''There are a lot of people into their 40s playing hockey, and there are lots of leagues,'' said John E. Drew, president of the Drew Co., which along with Fidelity developed the nearby World Trade Center in the mid-1980s. ''I want to see a lively use of the area. It would be something Boston and the immediate neighborhood could use.''

The Drew team's overall development proposal includes housing, retail space, and a hotel.

The joint venture known as New Seaport Center Boston LLC -- comprised of Lend Lease Real Estate Investments and Samuels & Associates -- plans a major mixed-use project dominated by residential and retail buildings but with a significant component of office space and a hotel, according to representatives of the brokerage firm Meredith & Grew/Oncor, which is serving as development manager.

Height limits for the area, restricted by the Federal Aviation Administration, are 270 feet.

Chris Chandor, development manager in Boston for Dallas-based Trammell Crow, which is another team vying for the site, said his company's proposal includes 250 residential units, 1,700 parking spaces, a 400-room hotel, and office and retail space totaling 400,000 square feet.

The fourth team competing -- comprised of the Fallon Co., New England Development, Joe O'Donnell of the Boston Concessions Group, and Boston Properties Inc. -- is expected to emphasize shopping space.Thomas C. Palmer Jr. can be reached at

This story ran on page C1 of the Boston Globe on 5/6/2003.
© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.

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