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May 19, 2008

Banker and Tradesman

Lincoln Offers Artistic Solution To Criticism of Fort Point Plan
By Thomas Grillo,

A developer is offering three affordable artist lofts at its building in Boston’s Fort Point neighborhood, but residents are criticizing the plan.

Lincoln Property Co. wants to transform a pair of warehouses at 316-322 Summer St. into 140,000 square feet of office space with ground-floor retail and a rooftop addition. But at a public hearing in March, the proposal met with resistance from residents who said 87 condominiums and eight artist live/work units had been approved for the building under the previous owner. Archon/Goldman sold the building to Lincoln in December for $17.8 million.

Following the raucous public meeting and a story in Banker & Tradesman, Mayor Thomas M. Menino asked Lincoln to abandon the all-office proposal and add housing to the mix.

Since then, Lincoln has been negotiating with Studio Soto, a gallery/workspace for artists, to take 3,500 square feet at their Summer Street property. Under the proposal, the nonprofit group would occupy space on the lower level for $1 per square foot annually. But while praising the deal, city officials and some neighborhood representatives said it would not meet the housing need.

Lincoln recently met privately with several Fort Point neighbors to float the idea of three affordable artists lofts at the property, according to several sources.

In an e-mail, Paul Bernstein, president of the Fort Point Arts Community, a nonprofit artist organization, said he did not know who attended the session with Lincoln. He noted that about 20 invitees from the Fort Point neighborhood declined to attend the private meeting and have asked the Boston Redevelopment Authority to hold a public hearing on the plan.

“A public meeting would allow the community to review any changes to the project as a whole, rather than as a semi-private group,” Bernstein said.

While Bernstein declined to comment on Lincoln’s latest idea, one longtime resident, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said three housing units are not enough.

“While Lincoln’s plan is interesting, it has not been embraced by the community or by artists because the number of units are too few and they are located in the rear of the building in an area that would have been used for storage,” the resident said. “Many residents did not attend the Lincoln meeting because there was a concern that they were being positioned into accepting this meager offering. Many of us believed it was not appropriate to work out a private deal.”

John Cappellano, Lincoln’s senior vice president, declined to comment.

Right Mix

Kairos Shen, the Boston Redevelopment Authority’s chief planner, told Banker & Tradesman that the city plans to hold public hearings on the latest version of the plan. Dates had not been selected at press time.

John F. Palmieri, director of the BRA, has said that the agency is reviewing the planning and policy issues raised by residents.

“Our goal is to make sure that there’s the right mix of development, and the first few projects are almost exclusively commercial,” Palmieri said in March. “So we are step-ping back to evaluate our practices and see what we can do to encourage property owners to take a hard look at residential.”

The city’s 100 Acres Master Planning vision for the Fort Point District, issued in 1999 to guide development, promised “a vibrant 24-hour, mixed-use neighborhood anchored by 11 acres of new open space [and] 6 million square feet of development, with at least one-third as housing.” The plan was the result of a five-year collaboration among residents, property owners and government agencies. About 1,200 units have been built if the adjacent South Boston neighborhood is included in the tally, according to the BRA.

(c)2008 The Warren Group Inc., 280 Summer Street, Boston, MA 02210. All rights reserved.

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