Potential Boston Harbor Garage Project Plans to Reinvigorate Waterfront Area

Posted February 5, 2016 by Jason Balla in Business
The Chiofaro Company has made the Downtown Waterfront our home for over 30 years.

If the proposed plans for the Harbor Garage Project go through, the waterfront area of downtown Boston is poised to become a city hotspot for entertainment and innovation.

In 2007, Don Chiofaro—founder and president of the The Chiofaro Company—purchased the development property for $153 million. Over the past nine years, Chiofaro and the project’s investors have been working to develop this ambitious project. It would replace the garage currently situated on Atlantic Avenue.

The centerpiece of the Harbor Garage Project, in its current planning state, would be two towers filled with residential apartments, hotel rooms, work offices, restaurants, and various retail locations. According to the website, the project will “combine cutting-edge architecture with a grand public gathering place that epitomizes our city’s ingenuity, creativity and thirst for activity.”

Another feature of the proposed project is a “four-season programmable public space” that comes with a deployable roof. The first three floors of both towers would contain the entertainment, shopping, and dining options. An expansive public square would link the ocean with the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway. Concept art available on the website imagines an accessible open area that could also function as a public food market.

Various supporters for the project claim that it would help improve Boston’s image as a site for creativity and innovation.

“The most revolutionary businesses and research & development agencies are located in contemporary buildings, and within cities that are open to growth and transformation,” said Scott Bailey, of Managing Director of MassChallenge, on the project’s website. “Boston needs to reflect its talent so that we can keep young professionals and entrepreneurs in the city.”

“It’s time for a new icon to celebrate what I believe is the most intelligent, forward-thinking city in the world,” said Sam Aquillano of Design Museum Boston.

The project is currently on hold as it negotiates a number of planning and building obstacles. The primary concern lies within the project’s recurring clashes with the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA). As planned, the project would violate current zoning rules. In response, the BRA, in June, presented Chiofaro with new zoning rules for the project that would expand past the current rules but still be smaller than the project’s current goals.

One of the original pitches included towers reaching 780 feet. The BRA’s counter allowed for 600 feet in height and a total of 900,000-square-feet for the entire complex. The BRA, however, has concluded that as designed, the dual towers would cast unwanted shadows on Long Wharf. Therefore, they have proposed a new design that consists of a single 600-foot tower set back from Long Wharf with a reimagined public space at ground level.

The BRA has begun new conversations directly with Prudential Real Estate Investors, the organization with the majority stake in the Boston Harbor Garage Project. All signs indicate that the project should continue, the primary concern just focuses on reconciling the economic and legal restrictions.

Citizen advocacy representatives have also inquired about how the project would manage providing access to the waterfront and rising sea levels. A study commissioned by these representatives several months ago also came back with a recommendation for a single tower plan that creates public space on the waterfront, along Milk Street. The controversy around the building height seems to have dissipated, but now may shift to what the space on the ground and access to the water should look like.

Readers wishing to remain current with the Boston Harbor Garage Project should consider signing up for the project’s newsletter on their website or liking the project on Facebook.