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Sunday, October 07, 2007


SOUTH BOSTON: FROM EMPTY LOTS TO BUSTLING WATERFRONT 

From Empty Lots to Bustling Waterfront - New York Times

A photographic rendering of the planned Fan Pier project (in the foreground left, with the Boston skyline in the background).

South Boston has had its share of ups and downs - mostly downs - over the last few years. But, now there is hope that a long neglected, and inscrutable, area can finally turn the corner.

Since 2000, more than 8 million square feet has been developed in the area, and an additional 20 million is under construction, approved or proposed, according to the Boston Redevelopment Authority, the city’s planning and economic development agency.


ON an empty stretch along the South Boston waterfront, hundreds of guests and dignitaries gathered in late September to celebrate the groundbreaking for Fan Pier, a 21-acre, $3 billion mixed-use development. If you squinted just right, you could almost imagine a vibrant neighborhood of parks, residences, hotels, office buildings and shops rising from the barren landscape there.

For those who have long envisioned a revitalized Seaport District, as the area is known, the groundbreaking marked the end of a decades-long saga filled with almost as many dashed hopes as there have been in Fenway Park across town.

The area — roughly 1,000 acres of waterfront property across the Fort Point Channel from Boston’s financial district — served as rail yards for Boston’s working port until about 1955, when heavy industry there dried up. After that, the land was used mostly for parking lots, which have passed through the hands of prominent businessmen including Nicholas Pritzker, the chairman of the Hyatt Development Corporation; Frank H. McCourt Jr., the owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers; and Rupert Murdoch, the chairman of the News Corporation.

As market conditions waxed and waned, this prime waterfront real estate sat untouched, earning it the reputation as the most scenic parking lot in Boston. “A lot of folks had hopes for 25 years,” said Thomas M. Menino, the mayor of Boston. With the start of construction of Fan Pier, he said, “that dream has become a reality.”

A confluence of factors has created a more favorable environment for developers. Access to the area has improved with the new Ted Williams Tunnel connecting the Seaport District to Logan International Airport across the harbor, the extension of the Massachusetts Turnpike and the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s new electric bus line, the Silver Line.

Other high-profile developments have brought visitors and a sense of excitement to the area. The Institute of Contemporary Art, the cantilevered glass museum designed by Diller Scofidio & Renfro, opened last December on the Fan Pier property, and the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center has been drawing thousands of conventioneers since it opened in 2004.



Fan Pier, a curved stretch of land and piers between the Moakley United States Courthouse and the Institute of Contemporary Art, will eventually include three office buildings, a luxury hotel, more than a million square feet of residential buildings, more than 300,000 square feet of street-level retail and restaurant space, a six-acre deep-water marina and four and a half acres of public park.

It is just one of several development projects planned or under consideration in the Seaport District. Since 2000, more than 8 million square feet has been developed in the area, and an additional 20 million is under construction, approved or proposed, according to the Boston Redevelopment Authority, the city’s planning and economic development agency.




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