Update 6/23/99 - click here to view response from Fan Pier planners.
SAND's founding and core members have submitted the following position statement regarding the current state of progress of the Fan Pier development project.
The Fan Pier parcel is 20 acres of waterfront property adjacent to the Federal Courthouse. It is abutted by McCourt and Athanas properties, and by a MBTA Silver Line station now in construction.
- Mr. Thomas O'Brien
- The Boston Redevelopment Authority
- Boston City Hall 9th Floor
- City Hall Plaza
- Boston, MA 02201
Dear Mr. O'Brien:
In light of Wednesday's article in The Wall Street Journal regarding the progress of development on Fan Pier, we would appreciate your consideration of this letter clarifying the constituency and mission of the Seaport Alliance for a Neighborhood Design (SAND), and stating our position on the Fan Pier plan as it has moved forward.
Constituency and Mission
SAND represents a significant number of Boston voices - many of whom have weighed in during meetings or via our website. We have and continue to focus the South Boston Seaport District discussion on the potential evolution of a vibrant waterfront neighborhood. Based in South Boston's Fort Point district, SAND members have worked closely with South Boston residents, political leaders and the Fort Point Arts Community to better understand how the Seaport Plan could mesh with existing neighborhoods.
Participation in Fan Pier Meetings and Workshops
We have met on a number of occasions with Urban Strategies and Spaulding & Slye - the strategists and developers of the Fan Pier project. SAND members have attended countless workshops in large groups and in small sessions. We have hosted the planning team for the benefit of the Fort Point community. SAND's mission has been clear - advocating for residential uses with a mix of affordabilities, neighborhood style conveniences and a significant piece of open space for recreation.
SAND has always made positive contributions to the discussion. We understood that the developer required a certain density to achieve success with the project. We listened carefully to the concerns and suggestions made by a number of other community groups and waterfront advocates. And all along during this process, Urban Strategies indicated that they were pursuing a plan that could help anchor a mixed-use waterfront neighborhood.
To our dismay, when the Fan Pier plan moved from design guidelines to a planning stage, the developers began to shape the project to a level where it no longer represented either the workshops or the planning presentations. The project today does not even vaguely conform to Urban Strategies' own published Master Planning Principles of last November. Aware of controversial aspects of the plan, the developer is now hesitant to publicly release three-dimensional views and will not produce meaningful calculations of open space.
Open Space Minimized, Height and Density Maximized
As an indicator of where the Fan Pier project has progressed, the developer now includes all streets, sidewalks, paved areas and the Boston Harbor cove in its assessment of open space. While a civic arena occupies part of an acre, absolutely no recreational open space exists in the plan. And the developer carefully tallies every possible horizontal plane of construction, from windowsills to minor architectural details, in an attempt to avoid reaching the 150 foot average height limit set by the BRA.
Token Residential Accommodation
While the buildout has bloated from just over 2 million square feet estimated by Urban Strategies in 1998 to 3.3 million square feet today, residential use has decreased from 800,000 square feet (600-800 units) to 180 luxury condos and 200 rental units. We at SAND have stressed that residents of a mixed-use neighborhood would participate in improving its quality, while tourists and office workers would not be inclined to do the same. And Boston's luxury residential complexes of the type proposed on Fan Pier are typically privatized enclaves, with self-contained amenities and finicky occupants.
Neighborhood Ideals Dismissed
The Fan Pier project, with its heights and densities shaped by a maximum development envelope, puts high-rises on the water's edge without any context to the harbor or adjacent properties. Most intriguing ideas presented in workshops were extinguished - ranging from angled alleys, live/work spaces (now executive extended stay), convenience retail and appropriately scaled waterside structures. Our suggestion (shared by others including the BSA) to shift heights and density towards the rear corner has been ignored as each element has risen throughout the project.
Public Return on Infrastructure Investment Minimized
The Fan Pier project is a prime beneficiary of an $8 billion taxpayer investment in Seaport infrastructure and harbor cleanup. With this in mind, we continued to ask for one significant neighborhood-style amenity - for example a waterside park where a family could lay down a blanket. Instead, the harborwalk and other pathways are directed at moving pedestrians like cattle along commercial activities. And, while we appreciate the few flourishes like a winter skating rink, a tidal pool and some programming opportunites for local non-profits, these amenities are dwarfed by the scale of the proposal.
Linkage Payments as a Guiding Force
We are especially disheartened that the developer continues to dangle the prospects of $14 million in linkage payments, memorials, construction jobs and various job training opportunities as tools to get South Boston residents on board. Long after linkage funds have created a few affordable housing units in South Boston, the Fan Pier project will stand tall as a harsh memory of the waterfront for most residents of the South Boston community. We at SAND do not agree that the Seaport Plan should be shaped by linkage and jobs - linkage and jobs should be byproducts of any great urban project.
Simply put, we are outraged by the tossing of trinkets and the jewelry that has begun to adorn this hog. The Wall Street Journal is correct in suggesting that this plan is the result of a developer appeasing interest groups one at a time rather than settling on a program that comfortably achieves the objectives set forth by a Master Plan.
We at SAND continue to support many of the same neighborhood-style objectives that you have presented, just as we have attempted to find constructive solutions to resolve the complex issues surrounding developments in the South Boston Seaport District. As representatives of a groundswell of citizen voices, we certainly hope you will consider our points.
- The Founders and Core Members of
- The Seaport Alliance for a Neighborhood Design
- Steve Hollinger, Product Developer [initialed]
- Mary-Ann Agresti, Architectural Designer
- Lisa Damtoft, Artist, and Editorial/Design Assistant
- Cheryl Forte, Wool Merchant / Business Owner
- Todd Gieg, Photographer
- Gary Godinho , Financial Analyst
- Lisa Greenfield, Graphic Designer and Artist
- Jacob Higginbottom, Architect
- J. Amadeo-Holl, Technical Secretary and Painter
- Marggie Lackner, Architect and Artist
- Gustavo Soto-Rosa, Project Management Consultant/Artist
- Ann Scott, Administrative Assistant and Artist
- Michael J. Tyrrell, Architect/Civic Design Advocate
- cc: SAND Membership / General E-Mail / www.seaportalliance.org
- 300 Summer St., Boston, MA 02210
Your comments as a visitor to the SAND website would be appreciated and forwarded for discussion.