What is the Harbor Garage project?
A new development proposal for the site of the current Harbor Garage, the building, dubbed “The Pinnacle at Central Wharf,” is nearly 600 feet tall and over 850,000 square feet. The project is four times the height of the original zoning allowance for the site. Though the project includes a public plaza, it constitutes less than 3.3% of the overall project size and is not adequate to compensate for the potential impacts of the project. The project also includes a below-grade parking facility with approximately 1,100 spaces. To learn more about the project details, visit: http://www.bostonplans.org/projects/development-projects/harbor-garage-redevelopment
Who is behind the Harbor Garage project?
The property is owned by Prudential and being developed locally by The Chiofaro Company.
Why does the Aquarium oppose the project?
The warnings of climate change and its impacts are stark. With every passing day, we learn more about how these risks are accelerating, and this means sea level rise, and, in turn, more frequent storm surges and flooding. Here on our waterfront, we know this all too well. In 2018, flooding shut down the Aquarium MBTA station and the Aquarium for two days. The developer’s approach does not consider the impact of sea level rise on neighboring waterfront parcels or the larger downtown waterfront. It is a gross overuse of the site and misses critical opportunities for essential climate resiliency and waterfront accessibility. Boston Harbor has seen tremendous public investment and revitalization, yet we still do not have a compelling waterfront space in Boston. The proposed Tower and surrounding plaza is designed to benefit the building and its residents or visitors and does not do enough to welcome the community in. Most major cities are creating expansive public waterfront spaces for the enjoyment of the entire city that are also climate resilient. Seattle is one such example. With this building, Boston is adding more complexity and density to the waterfront without having a district-wide plan to create great resilient public space—the kind of waterfront our city deserves. Additionally, a building of this magnitude reinforces Boston as a city that is creating a private waterfront, not a public waterfront. We should not be adding more density, let alone permitting the privatization of the waterfront. Any appropriate redevelopment of Central Wharf must take a world-class approach to climate resilience and public accessibility that can benefit and be a matter of pride for all Bostonians and the region. Unfortunately, this proposal falls short.
Does this mean you prefer a parking garage on this site? How is that climate resilient?
No one believes that a parking garage is the best use for this site. But we are buying into the developer’s false narrative that in order to replace the garage we must have a 600 foot tower and the bare minimum in terms of climate resilience, accessibility, and public benefit. We simply don’t believe that argument. When pressed at the recent public meeting, the development team could give very few details around their climate plan other than buzzwords of “living shoreline” and “elevated building platform.” We can absolutely do better than that.
How does this project threaten the Aquarium and Central Wharf?
We have a number of concerns about project impacts, however, the most serious concerns are the approach the project takes to climate resilience. Despite claiming Central Wharf as its home, the 563-page initial project filing devotes a mere three pages to climate resilience. The proposed solution is singular and disappointing: elevating the public plaza and the base of the building. In fact, this approach is increasingly considered perilous, creating an island on which the Harbor Garage project will sit, with little support or consideration for the impact on the remaining parcels in the downtown waterfront. This proposal also raises questions about transportation, building impacts on the surrounding environment, and the civic and cultural identity for this important public space.
What is the Blueway?
The Blueway is a reimagined, climate resilient Central Wharf that features a renovated Aquarium surrounded by an accessible and inclusive public space. The Blueway better enables us to provide a welcoming educational space that connects people from across the city and visitors to Boston’s waterfront, and inspires us all to protect and promote the ocean. This work is at the heart of our conservation mission, which will be harmed if this proposal moves forward.
What do you think we should have here instead?
Boston has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to envision the downtown waterfront our city deserves. The Blueway aims to demonstrate a best-in-class approach to climate resiliency while engaging people in scientific education about our ocean and expanding public access to our waterfront. At every step in this process, the Aquarium will be a voice for Central Wharf, a voice for climate resiliency, a voice for public access, and a voice for public benefits—and we look forward to educating and engaging others in this effort.
How does this fit with the Aquarium’s mission?
Though we are well known as a destination for visitors from around the world who are interested in marine life, the Aquarium’s core mission is ocean conservation. Given the intersection between sea level rise and climate change, creating a world-class approach to resiliency on Central Wharf (via the Blueway), advocating for a district-wide plan for a climate ready downtown waterfront and opposing a project that ignores the potential impacts on adjacent properties is very consistent with our mission.
What does the Aquarium plan to do?
The Aquarium is taking several steps:
- Educating and calling together Boston residents, civic groups and environmentalists to participate in the public process, oppose this project and create a new vision.
- Holding the developer accountable to a high standard in terms of climate resilience, accessibility and public benefits.
- Convening a group to reimagine the future of this parcel with an open mind to the once in a generation possibilities associated with this site.
What can I do if I want to participate?
There are several steps you can take:
- Attend and speak out at an upcoming public meeting
- Submit a letter to the Boston Planning and Development Agency opposing the project:
- Follow the New England Aquarium on Facebook and Twitter to keep informed on our efforts to create an alternative vision for this parcel.
- Follow Save Boston’s Waterfront on Facebook and Twitter