What happens to the ribbon of land being created by the depression of the Central Artery may be the most important development decision to face Boston in a generation.
Authority Moves On Artery Surface Plan
By Richard Kindleberger, Globe Staff, 02/11/2000
After a decade of study, officials planning what happens to the 27 acres left on the surface when the Central Artery goes underground are about to take a first step toward implementation.
The Massachusetts Turnpike Authority is preparing to advertise for proposals from developers interested in building on two key downtown sites, known as parcels 6 and 12. The parcels are in the middle of a 1 1/2-mile corridor of parks and buildings that will stretch from Causeway Street to Chinatown.The two parcels will contain ramps connecting the depressed artery with the surface roadway. For that reason, construction overhead is expected to be difficult and complex, giving planners a reason for wanting to get started early.
In a meeting at City Hall, state and city officials and community leaders yesterday discussed the so-called request for interest that will be issued on Parcel 12, including possible changes aimed at attracting the strongest possible response. A similar meeting will be held today on Parcel 6.
Robert Ruzzo, the turnpike authority's chief of real estate development, said the RFIs would be issued late next week.
"Developing these two parcels is "going to be challenging," he said. "We want to get them out first."
The authority, in charge of the $12.2 billion Big Dig project, has promised to cover over the openings at parcels 6 and 12, if necessary. One goal of the project is to reconnect downtown with the waterfront, separated by the elevated steel and concrete artery since it was built in the 1950s.
But there seems to be consensus it would be preferable to have buildings, and the activity they bring, over the ramp openings rather than simply decks.
"This is a very significant moment for all of us," Richard Garver, the Boston Redevelopment Authority's planner on the surface artery project, said of the move to solicit developers.
Parcel 12, covering 61,000 square feet, is located between Quincy Market and the North End. Parcel 6, slightly smaller, is several hundred yards to the north along the artery corridor. Zoning limits the height of a building at either parcel to 55 feet, or about five floors.
Ruzzo said the solicitation of developers is not a selection process but a way of assessing interest and seeing what can be done on the sites. But he called it "an important first step."
Ruzzo said it was important that developers be identified for the sites while a recently selected master planning team works on plans for open space along the corridor. That way, what happens on adjacent sites can be coordinated, he said.
Nancy Caruso, a North End activist who has been involved in the planning for a year, applauded the decision to advertise for developers.
"These two parcels in particular are going to need a lot of tender, loving care."