The Municipal Harbor Plan for the Downtown Waterfront District has been in preparation since March 2013 and a draft plan is nearing its release for public comments. A Better City has been a member of the Advisory Committee since it was established and has submitted several sets of comments as the Public Realm and Watersheet Activation Plan, which is a critical component of the planning process, and as the overall plan have been taking shape. The last pieces of the plan are being prepared by the Boston Planning and Development Agency (until recently known as the Boston Redevelopment Authority) which is working to incorporate the “Blueway” vision developed by the New England Aquarium for its site and surroundings. A Better City is prepared to generally support the content of the draft Municipal Harbor Plan with a few qualifications.
The most controversial portion of the plan relates to the requirements for two of the development sites at the current Harbor Garage at Milk Street and Hook Lobster adjacent to the Moakley Bridge. The draft plan includes requirements for maximum height, density, and lot coverage for these sites and a third site at the Boston Marriott Long Wharf Hotel. The draft plan sets the maximum lot coverage for the two largest development sites at 70%, largely based on the analysis that the overall amount of open space in the district more than satisfies the minimum 50% open space requirement in Chapter 91, the Massachusetts Public Waterfront Act, which underlies the Municipal Harbor Plan. According to Chapter 91, a municipality can develop and propose a plan that adapts requirements of Chapter 91 to the conditions of the particular location. The process is long and complex, requiring an active public process, several comment periods, and ultimate approval of the plan by the Massachusetts Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs.
A Better City supports the appropriateness of the 70% coverage and is in agreement that open space in the district, which is adjacent to the Rose Kennedy Greenway, is ample, and furthermore, ground floor use that includes activities that will help to activate the nearby open space is more beneficial than more open space alone. A Better City has also been advocating for an economically viable approach for the development parcels and a high quality future realm.