The Boston Herald / Online Edition (breaking news)

City balks at Fort Point office plans
Residents lobby for more housing
by Scott Van Voorhis

City Hall is putting the brakes on a sudden surge of office development in Fort Point Channel, long touted as an up-and-coming residential neighborhood.

The Boston Redevelopment Authority is delaying a decision on a pair of proposed Fort Point office projects - at 316-322 Summer St. and at 49-53 Melcher St. - after protests from the area's growing residential enclave. The BRA had planned to approve both projects April 1.

Instead, John Palmieri, the BRA's new director, said the authority decided to ``take a breather'' after a meeting with representatives from several Fort Point neighborhood organizations.

The groups argued City Hall's long-term plan to transform the industrial enclave into a vibrant residential neighborhood is under threat as developers scrap condo plans in favor of office projects.

Instead, the city authority will take the next 30 days to study concerns raised by Fort Point residents and explore ways - including tapping into city affordable housing money - to encourage more residential development.

``To the extent that we can at least lead with some residential, it would provide some comfort to those people who have made the neighborhood their home and believe in creating a bona fide, mixed-use neighborhood,'' Palmieri said.

The decision got a mixed reaction from the developers of the two projects in question.

``I don't think there is a developer in the Northeast that would make that building residential right now,'' said John Miller, regional chief for Lincoln Property, of plans to renovate and expand 316-322 Summer St. into 133,000 square feet of office space. Previously it had been slated for 87 condos.

In a statement, a spokeswoman for developer Archon/Goldman, which plans to expand and renovate the Melcher Street building into 188,000 square feet of office space, cited $2 million in contributions made to neighborhood causes.

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