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  Friday, March 27, 2015
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BRA Meeting Inconclusive
By Rick Winterson

     Last Monday evening, the Boston Redevelopment Authority (the BRA) convened a meeting at the Tynan Community Center, to discuss the plan for developing a portion of South Boston’s Fort Point District.  This portion is known as “The 100 Acres”.  It stretches along A Street from Summer Street to West First Street, and crosswise from Fort Point Channel to the Bypass Road alongside the Convention Center. 

     More formally, the project is known as the Boston Redevelopment Authority Master Plan for Planned Development Area (PDA) No. 69 (South Boston/The 100 Acres).  Its most recent version is dated June 26, 2006.  The next step is a final public hearing (August 9), followed by the approval process beginning August 10.

     The current master plan for the PDA is the product of more than five years of meetings and planning efforts by the BRA.  What was intended to be a final plan was presented in 2005, but met with community resistance, especially from those who live and/or work in Fort Point.  A large number of the residents of Fort Point are creative artists, graphic designers, craftspeople, and the like.  In fact, Fort Point is the largest art colony in all of New England and boasts a certain neighborhood ambiance, which the residents wish to preserve.

     The current plan – the one dated June 26, 2006 - opens up more public space in the form of walkways, access to the Channel, and green areas.  There is a striking strip of park that cuts across “The 100 Acres”, giving a green vista with a ground-level view of the Boston skyline.  Building height restrictions were tightened to maximums of 180 feet, mostly at the back end of the PDA – the northeast corner near the Convention Center entrance.

     In prior meetings through July of this year, there had been general acceptance of the current plan.  At the Tynan meeting, the plan was well enough accepted on its own, but the practical implementation was subjected to some stiff questioning.

     The U.S. Post Office owns 23 acres of the “The 100 Acres” Fort Point PDA.  There were pointed questions concerning relocating the South Station Postal Annex to the Fort Point parcel.  One questioner compared it to putting in a truck terminal, which has an element of truth to it – that’s basically what a large postal center is.

     A Post Office spokesman explained that the existing South Station Annex building is too small to accept large, modern postal handling machinery.  Other sites, such as the incinerator site, are likewise the wrong size or do not have proper access.  As for the question of whether the Post Office would “honor” the BRA’s PDA Master Plan if it moved to Fort Point, no answer was given.

     Other attendees questioned the overlapping authorities in and around “The 100 Acres”.  The location of the Haul Road has not been determined.  The person from Massport seemed visibly startled when asked about that, as well as about Massport’s other projects in the area.  The MBTA, MWRA, Gillette/P&G, Edison, NSTAR, and Coastal Development were other names brought up as having interests or authority in the area.  Furthermore, there are regulatory agencies, such as the Massachusetts D.E.P. and the E.P.A., who will have a say in what is done on “The 100 Acres”. 

     This writer admittedly does not know the relationships between all of the entities mentioned, but it quickly became obvious that no single, identifiable entity has jurisdiction over “The 100 Acres.  In fact, many of the entities seem to be in competition with each other.  Consequently, what happens after the August 10 approval of the BRA PDA Master Plan is not known.  As a result, the decision-making process, including “who makes the first move”, is unclear at this time, to say the least.

     The meeting closed inconclusively at 7:30 p.m.    

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Model of "The 100 Acre"

Fort Point BRA development proposal.