May 29, 2006
Boston Development Authority
One City Hall Square
Boston, MA 02201
Dear Mr. Rourke:
We are writing in response to the 316-322 Summer Street redevelopment project filed by W2005 BWH II Realty on April 18, 2006. At two community meetings held in May 2006 we learned that relocation lease negotiations for the artists currently maintaining studios on several floors in these buildings have not been completed. We are writing to urge the BRA not to move this project forward until negotiations of these artists’ transfer to other Archon-owned buildings in the neighborhood at reasonable terms have been successfully completed.
As permanent Fort Point residents we salute the proponent’s proposal to convert 316-322 Summer Street into residences, because it adds to the area’s mixed-used fabric, advocated for by the neighborhood and the Seaport Alliance for a Neighborhood Design (SAND), in particular. However, we cannot support the project unless the following items are addressed:
1. Landmarking status of Fort Point.
The Boston Landmarks Commission is currently reviewing landmarking of the Fort Point historic warehouse district, which includes 316-322 Summer Street. Exterior alterations, particularly the two-story penthouse addition, need to be reviewed with this context in mind and must comply with recommendations and guidelines. The Boston Preservation Alliance should be consulted for additional recommendations regarding the project.
2. Presentation of a master plan.
The 316-322 Summer Street project represents the proponent’s first redevelopment project of an overall portfolio of eighteen historic Fort Point buildings. Because there is substantial ownership, we ask that a master plan be presented, which would allow for a more cohesive understanding of context and impacts of this project.
3. Impacts of the electric transfer station on future building residents.
Research regarding continuous exposure to electro-magnetic fields has shown that there may be health risks. As the Fort Point neighborhood develops, the public health risk of this power station should be closely looked at and potential relocation should be considered. This is also in the interest of potential residents, who consider living in a space facing the lot, because they anticipate better light conditions, not realizing that the property may soon be redeveloped with more substantial structures that would block light.
4. Light conditions in future artist live-work spaces on the mezzanine level of the building.
The proposed artist live/work spaces do not receive adequate light and many artists do depend on natural light to create their work. Though the spaces feature high ceilings, layout is narrow and deep and no light will reach the back portion of the spaces. The light conditions and space configurations must be further analyzed and potential location on other floors should be considered. In conversations with artists from the mixed non-artist/artist residents of Laconia Lofts in the South End, we have learned that there are often diametrically opposed interests in how floors should be maintained. Placement of continuous artist spaces on one floor may be the most opportune layout or, alternatively, they (1) could be laid out as a block (spanning multiple floors) or, (2) one vertical slice of the building, while still remaining contiguous. Please provide alternative layouts and locations of the artist units.
5. Affordable housing component for Fort Point artists.
The City of Boston requires a 15 percent affordable housing component of all new development. Does the proponent fulfill this requirement? Since artists of the Fort Point Arts Community are under direct threat of displacement because of this project, there should be a clause to reserve the spaces in this particular development specifically for artists in Fort Point, rather than making them available citywide, as was the case with Midway Studios, also located in Fort Point. An opportunity to prevent displacement of artists from this community was lost there.
6. Sustainable approach to architectural design.
The proponent claims to be sensitive to issues regarding sustainability. We urge the designers to reconsider current practices and design suggestions. Much more can be done. This project could serve as a model for sustainable architecture in the neighborhood. We suggest implementation of - a green roof - grey water recycling - solar and wind energy components. Potential increased capital expenditures would be offset by future savings and better marketability of the property. The BRA has issued a pledge to become the "greenest" city in the United States within the near future. Stronger adherence to LEED requirements beyond standard practice is required to achieve this goal.
7. Parking issues.
The proposed parking scenario appears inadequate with only 18 spaces for 86 units and we ask that additional measures are being taken to ease the impending competition for residential parking on Summer and A Streets, along with surrounding streets. Will you provide deeded spaces in the Necco Street Garage to alleviate this? Please provide details of parking for your future projects and how that will impact the area as well.
8. Fort Point is a wildlife habitat. The proponent states that no impacts on wildlife habitat are anticipated. Fort Point’s urban neighborhood is primarily habitat for various bird populations, including some rare and/or endangered species. The roof of the site is home to nesting seagulls, which are protected under Massachusetts law. Kestrel falcons have raised their young in the neighborhood. The district is also situated on the migratory route for waterfowl and shorebirds. These factors have to be anticipated and accommodating measures should be taken.
Once again, we object to this project moving forward before resolving all issues concerning relocation of the artists within the neighborhood with FPAC.
Thank you for your consideration. We look forward to receiving your response.
On behalf of The Seaport Alliance for a Neighborhood Design
Boston City Council President Michael Flaherty
Boston City Councilor James Kelly
Rep. Brian Wallace
Your comments as a visitor to the SAND website would be appreciated and forwarded for discussion.