4/13/99 (Updated from 4/1/99)
SAND has responded to a Project Notification Form (PNF) submitted to the BRA for consideration of proposed renovations by the developer/owner of the recently purchased brick building at 343 Congress Street (originally constructed as a horse stable in the late 1800's). The deadline for public comment on the proposed renovations is April 17th, 1999.
The following letter is a SAND amendment filed after meeting the owner/developer on April 5th. The BRA agreed to extend the public comment period from its original deadline of April 3rd and to further consider SAND's amended comments. To read SAND's original comments submitted to meet the April 3rd deadline, click here.
- Ms. Susan Hannon
- Senior Project Manager
- The Boston Redevelopment Authority
- One City Hall Plaza
- Boston, MA 02201
- Regarding:..343 Congress Street PNF -- Owner/proponent: Intercontinental Fund II
- AMENDMENT TO SAND COMMENTS OF 3/26/99
Dear Ms. Hannon:
Please accept this amendment to our SAND comments of 3/26/99. We had an opportunity to meet with the developer at a public meeting on April 5th and understand your office has extended the public comment period through April 17th. It was very much appreciated by our members that you were willing to participate with us in the discussion at this meeting.
As stated in our original comments, we have a number of concerns about this project, summarized by this ammendment. Among the concerns are:
A......Back-office renovation of this scale is innappropriate for a mixed-use neighborhood
The owner/developer stated at the public meeting that the purchase of 343 Congress St. occured after due dilligence based on the building being renovated for residential use. Furthermore, this purchase occured almost a year after the BRA's Master Plan was under way - long after it was established that the Fort Point area was to be rezoned as a residential neighborhood.
It is not acceptable to SAND to learn that the BRA gave this project a green light to convert to back-office prior to the community's input period. The developer's clear motivation for a change of intent (from residential to office use) after the initial purchase is simply justified by a determination of the return on investment - not based on the City's master plan for the area. The BRA has not shown resolve in achieving the goals set for in the Master Plan and we expect you will work with us to achieve a better understanding of the principles which enabled this developer (among others) to quietly transform Fort Point into a sterile office district.
B......Lack of sensitivity to Fort Point's historic context
Although SAND has stated that the architect has done an appreciable job in designing the cap on this building, we have registered a loud chorus from our broad membership that this cap is completely innapropriate for a historic district. According to one SAND source, other cities (for example Pittsburgh) have identified turn-of-the-century industrial areas and protected them as a historic treasure. In Boston, there is absolutely no respect for the manipulation of our wonderful historic facades.
SAND hereby states its opposition to the construction of an addition to 343 Congress Street, and asks the BRA to preserve and protect the Fort Point district's entire building envelope.
C......Impact on Artists Cooperative continues to weaken creative fabric
As you already know from a myriad of voices at FPAC, the 343 Congress Street addition blocks sunlight entering the Artists Building at 300 Summer Street. This is a cause for concern because SAND has continually supported the creative fabric of the Fort Point community - a neighborhood of artists continually impacted by area development. This community has already felt the impact of development and many area artists have moved away, often to other more welcoming cities.
SAND supports the position of FPAC and the Artists of 300 Summer Street, requiring the project at 343 Congress Street to have little or no long-term impact on the light and livelihood of the Artists that have contributed so much to Boston and to this area.
D......Attention to "neighborhood" context
SAND requests that the developer include "neighborhood" retail, not simply accepting the retail establishment that pays the highest rent. The Fort Point neighborhood will not survive if developers are continually allowed to add Starbucks and Prada to their projects.
Furthermore, SAND requests that the developer include operable windows, at least on the second and third floor. Pedestrians have a better sense of a living, vibrant neighborhood when they are able to look up and see the occasional face or potted plant. The developer has indicated their intent to install inoperable windows - a walk down Melcher Street demonstrates how Boston Wharf Company has sterilized its pedestrian walkway by sealing a number of office buildings for air-conditioning.
E......Unfettered access to alley
The alley behind 343 Congress Street must provide unfettered access for its full width. This alley is a fire lane and must be protected for the long-term benefit of the numerous wooden post-and-beam interior constructions on Summer Street and Congress Street. If a fire occurs in one building in Fort Point, the entire historic district is at risk.
We are not convinced that the Boston Fire Department will adequately review this PNF and request that the BRA further protect Fort Point from a potential liability.
Furthermore, the introduction of hydraulic lifts may add environmental risks in a narrow lane, possibly restrict the ability of the developer to adequately mitigate for hydraulic leaks and related problems.
As a suggestion regarding parking and access, the developer may consider forging a relationship with the owner of the parking lot adjacent to 343 Congress Street.
It was a pleasure meeting you at the public hearing. We at SAND look forward to working with you and the BRA to achieve many of the goals set forth in the Public Realm Plan.
- Steve Hollinger
- on behalf of:
- The Seaport Alliance for a Neighborhood Design (SAND)
Note regarding recusal of SAND members:
A number of SAND members are residents of 300 Summer St., a building directly impacted by the proponent's PNF. To eliminate potential conflicts, we have asked these SAND members to recuse themselves from our internal discussions regarding this PNF. These individuals have indicated their intent to file comments separately.
Your comments as a visitor to the SAND website would be appreciated and forwarded for discussion.