SAND Questions for the Boston Civic Design Commission (BCDC)

Does anyone need to know the answers to these questions, or should we simply expect to read rave reviews for each "sensitive" shanty addition and steroid-injected infill bulging out of Fort Point's historic buildings -- drafted by the architects at BCDC and office-space cheerleaders at NAIOP -- year after year?

The Boston Globe
February 9, 2008

New focus for Melcher Street project
Slow housing market leading developer to shift to offices, shops

By Thomas C. Palmer Jr.
Globe Staff

A Fort Point Channel area redeveloper whose ambitious plans for the neighborhood have been stymied by the crippled housing market is proposing to convert three historic buildings on quaint Melcher Street into offices and retail space.

In the biggest redevelopment phase yet of the portfolio of buildings it bought from the Boston Wharf Co. in 2005, Archon/Goldman is turning its attention from residential properties to the healthier commercial real estate market.

The partnership is set to file plans Monday to redevelop 233,000 square feet at 49, 51, and 63 Melcher St., on the south side of the narrow Fort Point Channel way. The estimated cost is $50 million.

Under the plan, the industrial buildings - some of which became artists lofts - would house offices plus 36,000 square feet of retail shops and restaurants on the ground floors of all four sides of the buildings.

Earlier, Archon/Goldman, which includes Archon Group LP and Goldman Properties Inc., sold what had been planned as its first major neighborhood improvement - a pair of Summer Street buildings slated to be luxury condos. Those former warehouses at 316-322 Summer St. will now be renovated for office use.

"The street-level retail is a key component to this project and a continuation of what's going on in all of the Boston Wharf area," John M. Matteson, regional director of Archon Group LP, said of the Melcher Street plans.

The retail development will be man aged by Goldman, which was active in the development of the Soho neighborhood in New York.

Melcher is a hockey stick-shaped way that connects Summer Street with A Street. The three brick buildings include a nine-floor structure flanked by two five-story buildings. An enclosed bridge on the third floor of one of them crosses to the other side of Melcher.

The developers plan to add one floor to 51 Melcher, the nine-story building, and fill in empty lots at the back of the buildings, near Necco Court, increasing the total usable space from an existing 188,000 square feet.

Melcher Street has been planned as a location for shops and galleries, part of a mixed-use district of businesses, residential buildings, and night-life establishments that would attract residents and visitors to the area at all hours. Architect Joel Bargmann of Bargmann Hendrie + Archetype Inc. of Boston, described adjacent Necco Court as "sort of a dingy, messy court" that would be much improved by the planned redevelopment.

Plans and drawings will not be formally submitted to the Boston Redevelopment Authority until Monday, but the project was considered at this week's Boston Civic Design Commission meeting. It won rave reviews before being unanimously approved.

"It's a very good strategy. It's a very nice project," said commission member David Hacin.

Ed Tsoi, chairman of the commission, commended the developer for its "care and finesse. . . . What it's doing to bring life back into the Seaport district is extremely valuable," Tsoi said.

In a recent letter of intent to the city, the developer said it wanted to repair the historic facades of the brick buildings and add new windows and roofs.

Justin Krebs, a principal at Normandy Real Estate Partners, welcomed the proposal. He said his company has been concentrating on redeveloping the Summer Street side of two buildings it purchased from Archon/Goldman last year.

"Part of what Archon's proposing will help lead us on the other side of Melcher Street," said Krebs. "The whole game plan they thought of, creating a retail corridor, makes some sense there."

Thomas C. Palmer Jr. can be reached at

Your comments as a visitor to the SAND website would be appreciated and forwarded for discussion.