The Boston Redevelopment Authority reached an agreement last week with concert promoter Don Law for relocating the Harborlights concert venue on BRA/EDIC property. The new site, Wharf 8, is located immediately to the east of Jimmy's Harborside restaurant on Northern Avenue. The pavillion's capacity will increase to seat approximately 5,000 concertgoers. The season has lengthened from 3 to 6 months.
Don Law Productions (SFX entertainment) has signed a 5-year lease (and 5 year option) for use of the site. As of this date, the terms of this lease have not been publicly disclosed.
SAND members have and continue to support the concept of an outdoor concert venue on the waterfront. Harborlights' capacity is manageable, and the pavillion attracts Boston residents and tourists alike to hear music on a warm summer night.
That said, SAND notes the disregard for public process represented by the BRA, Mayor Menino and Boston officials in permitting the relocation of Harborlights on Wharf 8 without a single hearing for the benefit of area residents, Seaport District planners, community groups and maritime businesses whose futures are continually imperiled by developers with an eye on the Marine Industrial Park -- an area reserved for expansion of maritime trade.
To accomodate Harborlights, a number of seafood processing companies would have to be relocated to other parcels within the Maritime Industrial Park. Many of these companies, including Commercial Lobster, a tenant on this BRA-managed parcel for 18 years, were not made aware of the agreement until after it appeared in the press. In fact, not even the Mayor's South Boston Waterfront Committee knew of the relocation site, structure, season, amenities, mitigation package or other details until the lease agreement was inked.
At yesterday's SBWC board meeting (10/27/98) the South Boston Waterfront Committee expressed concern that it has not yet been apprised of the mitigation package, signed by South Boston officials without public discussion. Requests for details of the mitigation payments, value, term, etc. at this meeting were dismissed by Harborlights developer Robert Walsh as "not appropriate for this forum". In general terms, Mr. Law suggested that the mitigation package is an undisclosed amount to be provided for the South Boston school system - generated through the production of a mutually-agreed-upon Harborlights event. At the developer's discretion other amenites - for example restrooms along Harborwalk - might be provided.
It is the SAND view that a public process would have benefitted the Harborlights relocation for all parties - from South Boston to the developer. In a public forum, existing tenants on Wharf 8 and maritime advocates would have made their concerns known.
In a public forum, SAND would have stressed that mitigation should allow for a re-investment in the Seaport District. We would have considered the demands for investment in South Boston, balanced by the understanding that Harborlights is only occupying the property for a 5-year term. We would have made a few reasonable demands, perhaps requiring public transit incentives rather than encouraging private passenger vehicles into the Marine Industrial Park area (as the BRA appears to have accomplished by embedding parking fees in the ticket price). We would have contemplated the use of the waterfront site as a park during off-season and off-hours.
Public concerns were not sought and the lease for public land was signed with the developer left to determine on-site amenities, parking arrangements and pedestrian access. In this case, the BRA, South Boston officials and Mayor Menino did not seek comment from the Mayor's own Waterfront Committee, Boston Harbor advocacy organizations or community groups. And so, our comments here are our only public record.
We expect Don Law to serve as a community-minded tenant of public property and a beneficiary of public Seaport District investments, and will continue to monitor his progress.