Residents Demand Answers at Council Meeting on Police Killing of Sayed Faisal
Bob Odenkirk Named Hasty Pudding Man of the Year
Harvard Kennedy School Dean Reverses Course, Will Name Ken Roth Fellow
Ex-Provost, Harvard Corporation Member Will Investigate Stanford President’s Scientific Misconduct Allegations
Harvard Medical School Drops Out of U.S. News Rankings
The city of Boston approved a $1.2 billion Fort Point development this month that is set to create residential, office, and biolab spaces as well as a large public park and amphitheater.
The plan, proposed by developer Related Beal, aims to transform a parking lot along the Fort Point Channel into 1.1 million square feet of residential, retail, commercial, and public space, while also contributing to affordable housing and local arts and culture initiatives in the neighborhood.
Related Beal’s predecessor company, the Beal Companies, facilitated Harvard’s land purchases in Allston during the 1990s, allowing the University to buy $90 million in land while remaining undetected.
Stephen N. Faber, Related Beal’s executive vice president, said in a press release the development will help transform the neighborhood.
“The collective resources brought to bear on this now vacant parking lot will create one of the most dynamic, inventive and exciting places to work, live and innovate,” Faber said. “Channelside will be a place at the intersection of art, science and nature for the entire city.”
The developer’s proposal featured a package of public benefits for the Fort Point neighborhood, including a $3.7 million public art program that would reserve at least 25 percent of its funding for BIPOC and female artists. Related Beal also pledged a combined $1.07 million in area transportation improvements, including $500,000 to the MBTA for bus route funding.
Related Beal pledged that 20 percent of the housing created by the development would be affordable, of which 75 percent would be reserved for living and working space for neighborhood artists.
The Fort Point development received backing from some local elected officials, including United States Representative Stephen F. Lynch (D-Mass.) and Boston City Councilors Edward Flynn and Michael F. Flaherty.
The resident engagement process began in 2019, with two in-person community open houses in the months following Related Beal’s May 2019 purchase of the property. The majority of this outreach, however, took place amid the Covid-19 pandemic, forcing a shift to meetings over Zoom.
Rocco Giuliano, a Fort Point resident, said in an interview that the switch to virtual meetings during the pandemic made it difficult for residents to communicate and engage in the planning process.
Another resident, Debra O’Toole, wrote in an August 2020 public comment to the developer that she saw the virtual meeting process as a barrier to participation for many residents.
“Allowing this development process to move forward on ‘zoom’ is preventing public participation,” O’Toole wrote. “You are squeezing out the participation of older people who do not feel comfortable with rushed technology to do business.”
Giuliano, a member of a local artists’ cooperative, added that he and other residents were upset that the development process would involve the destruction of 39 honey locust trees on the property. With the project approved, the trees are set to be chopped down.
Giuliano said he helped put up 200 Tibetan prayer flags in an attempt to “spare the spirit of the trees” — though he said he no longer expected community advocacy to succeed in protecting them.
“I think the day will come when they will bring out the chainsaws and the heavy duty earthmoving equipment and just destroy it all,” Giuliano said. “I find that disappointing.”
The project is now set to undergo approval steps due to its location along the channel. According to the Related Beal’s press release, construction is expected to begin next year.
—Staff writer Brandon L. Kingdollar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @newskingdollar.
Want to keep up with breaking news? Subscribe to our email newsletter.