Built in 1979, the Dock Square Garage is not a building anyone would consider historic nor architecturally distinctive, however it is located near some of the most significant historic resources in the city: Quincy Market, the Blackstone Block, the North End and within the viewshed of the Custom House Tower. Fortis Property Group of New York has proposed the construction of a ten-level, approximately 195-unit addition atop the garage and recladding of the brick façade on the existing garage. They propose a Planned Development Area to allow them to exceed height and FAR limits established in both the Greenway District Guidelines and the Market Protection Area. The Alliance feels it is out of scale and context for this extremely historically significant neighborhood. The Boston Civic Design Commission and many members of the community agree.
The Alliance has expressed our concern, not with redevelopment and the opportunities of re-envisioning of this garage (a rather non-descript, innocuous non-entity within the neighborhood), but with the scale and insensitivity to the historic area where it is centered. We also are troubled with a growing trend of “glass hats” being placed on top of historic buildings. Finally we want to see successful ground floor/pedestrian engagement in any new use here, and the current proposal provides little. We sent a letter expressing our concerns to the BPDA in April 2018.
Highlights from our activity log:
• December 19, 2018
Alliance staff attends a design review meeting at the Boston Civic Design Commission. Several staff members from the BPDA are present and start the meeting by explaining that this project has been reviewed in several internal meetings as well as with the Impact Advisory Group and that BPDA staff feels comfortable moving forward with the project being presented. The proponent then shows updates to the proposal which include a larger public open space, a more sculpted design for the new addition, and metal screens over the garage. BCDC members ask several questions about the project and then express concerns that because this area is so historically significant, a development of this scale is not appropriate. Some feel that this project would disconnect the historic Quincy Market area from the 17th century Blackstone Block and negatively impact the historic context. It is suggested that the design review committee move the project along to the full Commission for a vote, even if that vote is no. As an advisory committee, BCDC cannot prevent the BPDA from moving forward with a project. Their role is to provide guidance and make recommendations.
• October 23, 2018
Alliance staff attends a design review meeting at the Boston Civic Design Commission. Updates to the proposal are presented including retail on the ground floor along the Greenway, a slight reduction in the height of the addition, and the introduction of glass all the way to the base of the garage. The proponent notes a new strategy to drive piles through the garage to support the addition so that the garage itself can be altered in the future if parking demands decrease. There are two suggestions for how to treat the garage exterior- leave it brick or cover it with a metal screen. Commissioners express the same concerns as they did at the previous meeting: the proposal is inconsistent with the Greenway Guidelines and too jarring for this incredibly historic context. The proponent agrees to consider a narrow tower on the garage and to bring new concepts to the next meeting. Those attending from the public express concerns about scale and views to the Custom House Tower. Alliance staff is concerned about a metal screen wrapping the garage and the visual impact within this historic setting.
• September 4, 2018
Alliance staff attends a design review meeting at the Boston Civic Design Commission. Updates to the proposal are presented. The Commission expresses deep concerns with the scale, height, and presence of the garage addition in this historically significant context. There is a discussion about the anticipated demand for parking in decades to come and whether some parking spaces should be sacrificed for other uses. The Alliance expresses serious concerns about the proposal, sharing those of the Commission and also noting that by placing this large residential project on top of the garage we lock the garage in place indefinitely, virtually eliminating the possibility of the garage's replacement one day when parking demands may be less. A Commissioner describes the project as "trying to put 10 pounds of potatoes into a 5 pound sack." The Commission asks the project team to rethink the scope of the project and return with a proposal that lowers the height of the addition, asking for a design within the existing guidelines.
• April 2018
Alliance files comment letter with the Boston Planning and Development Agency. Earlier in the month the Alliance attended the Boston Civic Design Commission and one BCDC subcommittee meeting where there was strong Commission opposition to the proposal’s height, scale, and massing, particularly in this historic area. We were also represented at a public meeting where there were numerous voices opposed as well as questions about how this proposal will interact and engage with a new hotel recently approved for an adjacent parcel in Haymarket. The existing garage is 70’ tall and the proposal is for 193’ to the top of the last occupied floor, 213’ to top of penthouse.