Copyright (c) 2005 Globe Newspaper Company
Published in The Boston Globe on 1/21/05


by Thomas C. Palmer Jr. Globe Staff

He may not be buying Fan Pier, but Stephen R. Karp is getting the Pier 4 site next door ready to redevelop.The Boston Redevelopment Authority yesterday set Feb. 3 for a public hearing on Karp's proposal for about 1 million square feet of waterfront development. That almost certainly means a board vote of approval for the three-building project on the 9.5-acre site of Anthony's Pier 4 restaurant.

Final approval under the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act, which Karp won with qualifications over two years ago, is expected on Jan. 28. And a permit under the state's Chapter 91 law governing waterways this summer would clear the way for construction to begin.

But that doesn't mean work will start this year.

"We're always looking at market conditions, and we think the market conditions aren't quite right now but are getting closer," Karp said yesterday.

With consistently high vacancy rates in Boston's office towers, a 250-foot-tall, 385,000-square-foot office structure like that penciled in along Seaport Boulevard for the Pier 4 redevelopment may be the farthest thing from a developer's mind now.

Other, currently more promising parts of the proposed project include 200-plus residential condos, a 250-room hotel, ground-floor retail stores, 20,000 square feet of public space, and underground parking for about 1,200 cars.

"The market isn't ready for a luxury hotel there," said Karp, although hotel development is beginning to edge forward in the Boston area after a long period of inaction following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Karp has development rights to the Pier 4 property, owned by Anthony Athanas, owner of Anthony's Pier 4. Athanas has the option of opening a new restaurant on the redeveloped pier.

A residential structure on the water is planned at 10 floors. A 170-foot-tall hotel and residential structure would be built midpier, between the water and Seaport Boulevard. The project includes an 1,800-foot addition to Boston's Harborwalk.

In a certificate issued in August 2002, the state's secretary of environmental affairs asked the developer to reconsider some elements of his plan, including the placement of public space on a second floor away from the water.

That plan has changed considerably as the design has been refined, according to Karp's attorney, John E. Twohig, a director at Goulston & Storrs. The proposed public space is still in the largest building, along Seaport Boulevard, but is now part of an atrium, and occupies both first- and second-floor areas, Twohig said.

State approval of that and other aspects may come next Friday. Public hearings on waterway issues will be held in the spring, Twohig said, and final state approval could come in early summer.

Karp's company is New England Development of Newton, which builds shopping centers and owns the CambridgeSide Galleria. His partners in Pier 4 are Steven Fischman, Joseph J. O'Donnell, and Joseph F. Fallon.Karp made a run at purchasing Fan Pier, the empty 21-acre site on the South Boston Waterfront next to Pier 4, several months ago. It is owned by the Pritzker family of Chicago. Karp was the second of two prospective buyers last year who failed to conclude a deal for the land.

Thomas C. Palmer Jr. can be reached at tpalmer@globe.com.

Copyright (c) 2005 Globe Newspaper Company

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