The following document is the SAND response to a Project Notification Form (PNF) filed with the Boston Redevelopment Authority by Beacon Capital Partners. The PNF proposes a 180,000 square foot residential conversion project in South Boston's Fort Point neighborhood. The public comment period for this project expires on 6/15/99.
For additional info on this project, click here.
- Ms. Susan Hannon
- Senior Project Manager
- The Boston Redevelopment Authority
- One City Hall Plaza
- Boston, MA 02201
Regarding: Fort Point Place PNF
Dear Ms. Hannon:
The Seaport Alliance for a Neighborhood Design (SAND), a community group based in the Fort Point neighborhood, has been an active participant in the planning of the entire South Boston Seaport District. We have monitored development projects and plans across this vast expanse, from the Marine Industrial Park to the Fort Point neighborhood.
SAND core members have worked diligently over the past weeks to meet with the proponents of the Fort Point Place project, to discuss their plans and to carefully review the PNF recently submitted to the BRA.
SAND strongly supports a number of the proponent's major objectives, namely: the conversion of Fort Point Place to residential use; the architectural respect that the proponent has demonstrated with regard for the historic integrity of the existing turn-of-the-century structure (interior and exterior); and the provision of affordable units per City guidelines.
Our general support is premised on the project's introduction of 125 new residential units. This conversion will help solidify the Fort Point neighborhood, a mission that has been highly regarded by the existing Fort Point community yet (in the past) viewed with skepticism by developers. Future tenants of Fort Point Place will help engender community ideals for the area, regard for open space and area amenities, and the emergence of small businesses. Notably, the Fort Point Place proposal is in sync with the BRA Public Realm Plan in its view of the evolving neighborhood.
Though SAND supports the major objectives of this proposal, we have a few concerns about the details within the PNF that remain to be addressed. Our comments and concerns are detailed as follows:
Housing Stock and the existing Fort Point Community
SAND supports the intent of the proponent to match or exceed City guidelines for inclusion of an affordability component during the creation of new residential projects. We especially support this proponent's intent to provide affordable units onsite - effectively enabling the area to evolve with a diverse mix of tenants.
The Fort Point neighborhood is recognized throughout New England as an enclave of artists, many of whom have worked and made improvements in the immediate area during the past two decades. The Fort Point arts community, with hundreds of painters, illustrators and sculptors working in the area, are major contributors to Boston's cultural livelihood.
Only a small percentage of Fort Point artists own property, with the majority of artists renting space from the Boston Wharf Company. All artist leases with the Boston Wharf Company expire within the next 3 years and the Boston Wharf Company is not expected to renew these leases. Alternative studio spaces with the unique ceiling heights and windows available to Fort Point artists are not readily available elsewhere in Boston.
Because SAND has recognized this existing community and its tenuous housing situation, we have encouraged the proponent to work with the Fort Point Arts Community (FPAC) in achieving a synergy between the artists who will be displaced and the process for selection of tenants in the affordable units. The proponent has stated an intent to recognize the artist community, agreeing to support FPAC in its mission to notify and provide access to affordable units for area artists. FPAC is working with South Boston's political leaders to achieve a better understanding of the logistics and legalities of the housing selection process.
We support FPAC in its work on behalf of Fort Point artists, and expect that the proponent and the BRA will work together to recognize and amplify the values of the existing arts community during this process.
According to the PNF, Fort Point Place units will widely range in size, from 600 to 1600 square feet. Because there is no language regarding the size of affordable units, we are concerned that the proponent may intend to provide 13 of 125 units of 600 square feet each to meet the 10% affordable component. This would provide 7200 square feet for the affordable component, just under 5% of the 160,000 square feet of floorspace in the building.
The proponent should be expected to provide affordable units with floorspace distributed in proportion to market rate units.
Furthermore, we encourage the proponent to develop a range of unit sizes at market rate - making sure to include market rate units of smaller sizes (600 square feet) in the mix, allowing buyers with moderate income levels to consider living at Fort Point Place.
The developer, with our support, seeks to convert Fort Point Place for residential use. At least one zoning variance will be required, in part due to the fact that Fort Point Place cannot provide open space normally required of residential projects.
To achieve zoning relief, the proponent cites in the PNF that the 3.5 acre parcel of land abutting the northern edge of Fort Point Place (across Wormwood Street) is slated to become a park - a vision that is shared by SAND and the Fort Point community, and recognized as open greenspace in the BRA Public Realm Plan. Today, this parkspace is a cement scar, open for construction of the Artery connection to Logan Airport.
In light of the fact that Fort Point Place does not meet open space requirements, and because the proponent cites the Fort Point park in text and diagrams as an opportunity for relief from zoning, the proponent should be required to actively participate in the creation of this park in order to satisfy open space requirements.
We recommend that the proponent, in seeking zoning relief, will help the community move forward with plans to promote the creation of Fort Point Park on the abutting property. This effort may include the creation of an open space trust fund or participation in funding or sponsoring the park.
With the creation of a "Fort Point Park," the Fort Point Place project will be significantly improved and much more attractive to the community and prospective tenants alike.
Parking and Retail Uses
SAND supports the intent to build parking on the interior first level.
We are concerned that the proposed sizes of retail units on the first level (totaling 2000 square feet) are inadequate, and although we do not want to reduce the number of parking spaces for residents, we believe there may be a number of indoor visitor parking spaces and/or lobby floorspace that could be decreased or eliminated in order to increase retail unit sizes.
We do not support the proposed entrances or exits to interior parking along Wormwood Street. Wormwood Street will abut the Fort Point Park and should not be congested with vehicles waiting to enter or exit the premises. Parking access should occur either on Binford Street or at the rear of the building.
While the architectural rendering shows trees and open space in the area between 249 A Street and Fort Point Place, parking spaces are actually proposed for this area. We understand that there are issues related to loading dock access for 249 A Street (abutting live/work residential building) and this may require further consideration.
SAND members appreciate this proponent's recognition of the Fort Point neighborhood as an area of historic integrity - one of the most significant remaining clusters of turn-of-the-century industrial buildings remaining in the United States.
To its credit, the proponent has not proposed additional floors on Fort Point Place. The proponent preserves a Fort Point landmark - the towering smokestack. Furthermore, the proponent recognizes and intends to amplify the wonderful interior brick-and-beam constructions. In many ways, this project will serve as a very positive example to the development community that history and modern life can mesh in interesting and exciting ways.
Regarding the proposed glass and steel infill structure, SAND supports the architectural design and intended purpose of this partition. We do, however, request that the proponent recess the infill between the two buildings by an additional distance (at least 10 feet) in a further attempt to delineate and communicate the important original divide between the two buildings.
Of the 335,000 square feet purchased at Fort Point Place, approximately half is being converted for residential use (addressed by this PNF). The remaining properties were already under lease agreements for use as office space. We understand that most of these office leases are due to expire within 5-7 years. SAND encourages the BRA to seek commitments from the developer to continue its mission to meet the demand for housing stock - seeking a future conversion of the remaining properties for residential use and neighborhood-style amenities.
As long-time residents of South Boston's Fort Point area, we have strongly opposed the BRA reference to the "Wormwood District" in the Public Realm Plan. The proponent (and future developers) should be instructed to refer to this area as Fort Point, the Fort Point neighborhood, the Fort Point District, et. al.
To a large degree, it has been uplifting for SAND members to approach a project like Fort Point Place - in support of its scale, its execution and main objectives. Although we absolutely expect the proponent to address our concerns and to achieve consistency with our community objectives outlined in this document, we are looking forward to welcoming Fort Point Place to the neighborhood.
- Steve Hollinger
- on behalf of:
- The Seaport Alliance for a Neighborhood Design (SAND)
- 300 Summer Street, South Boston, MA 02210 617-423-4299
Your comments as a visitor to the SAND website would be appreciated and forwarded for discussion.