BRA chief talks about waterfront projects during a visit to Eastie

August 12, 2010
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Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) chief John Palmieri knows East Boston has been anxiously awaiting waterfront development projects to commence along the water’s edge and he believes developers of these highly anticipated projects are beginning to regain confidence as the real estate market rebounds.

At a luncheon last week, Palmieri said the projects stalled once the market bottomed out two years ago.

“Developers had to hit a magic number in sales to make these projects work,” explained Palmieri. “When the market was hot and developers could get $300,000 plus for condos pre-construction the numbers worked but when the market tanked the same developers could not get the financial backing from banks because the numbers just didn’t add up.”

However, Palmieri is seeing some action along the local waterfront with big time developers like Roseland, Winn and Denormandie starting to move on their projects at Pier I, Clippership Wharf and Hodge Boiler Works.

As an example of how things are shaping up, Palmieri pointed to the New Street Development getting BRA approval recently to add 224 waterfront units to the neighborhood.

Some have said the New Street project could finally be the first wave of waterfront development along East Boston’s shore after a decade of starts and stops Roseland, Winn and Denormandie.

After shovels are in the ground at the New Street, other developments multimillion dollar developments at Pier I, Hodge Boiler Works and Lewis Wharf could begin shortly thereafter.

From the early 1900s to the 1950s, 6-26 New Street was primarily used for cold storage. Following the 1950s, until the 1980s, confectionary companies occupied the buildings. Today, the buildings are intermittently used for commercial purposes.

Back in 2007, the ambitious $90 million development project on the waterfront got the green light from Secretary of Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs Ian A. Bowles to begin Phase 1 of the project prior to preparing a mandatory Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the entire project.

Phase I of the New Street development will be subjected to a Massachusetts Environmental Protection Agency review because the project requires a state permit and consists of new non-water dependent use or expansion of an existing non-water dependent structure provided the use or structure occupies one or more acres of waterways or tidelands.

Recently the developers of the New Street property, New Street Realty Trust, filed an Expanded Environmental Notification Form (ENF). Phase 1 of the project consists of redevelopment and expansion of the existing 9-story building to create 224 residential units and construction of a two-level parking garage to the north of the building.

The project’s first phase will also include the demolition of three existing buildings, construction of a Harbor Walk connection along the waterfront with a connection to LoPresti Park, construction of a water taxi landing in the Designated Port Area (DPA) and water taxi waiting area adjacent to the DPA, removal of existing pile fields, construction of a DPA vehicle access route from New Street, creation of surface parking in the southeastern area of the site and creation of lawn and open space on the remainder of the site.

Phase Two of the project will include construction of a six-story building to provide 59 residential units or 106 hotel/extended stay units, an underground parking garage, construction of a single story building for a restaurant or other Facility of Public Accommodation (FPA), construction of a recreational marina to the south of the DPA and dredging of approximately 2,300 cubic yards to support the marina.

The 3.93-acre site is located in the southwestern comer of the waterfront. It is bound by New Street and Maverick Landing to the east, LoPresti Park to the south, Boston Inner Harbor to the west and the Boston Towing and Transportation Companies property to the north. It is located in close proximity to Maverick Square and the MBTA’s Blue Line Maverick Station.

The site includes 50,434 sq. ft. of filled tidelands, 84,547 sq. ft. of flowed tidelands and 36,150 sq. ft. of uplands. These include private and Commonwealth tidelands.

The northern half of the water-sheet adjacent to the project is designated as a DPA. The site is located within the New Street Complex which is listed in the Inventory of Historic and Archaeological Assets of the Commonwealth. It contains a nine-story warehouse, a five-story warehouse, a three-story building, accessory structures, and dilapidated wharves and piers.

The project also includes approximately 8,000 square feet of facilities of public accommodation space, of which approximately 5,000 square feet will be used as a restaurant on the ground-level of the six-story building.

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