Architects present concepts for S. Boston waterfront
Local developers and investors expressed skepticism about the city's initiative to develop the South Boston waterfront at a symposium at City Hall today, saying they hope the government can take on part of the investment risk.
Mayor Thomas M. Menino urged the group of about 50 architects, developers, and financiers to help create affordable market-rate housing in the area.
"I've been mayor for 17 years, and I've never seen so much interest in one part of the city as I see today -- even with the economy the way it is," Menino said.
Six architects presented concepts for sustainable buildings and neighborhoods where young people would both live and work. Their ideas ranged from car-sharing programs at apartment buildings with only one parking space per 32 units, to live/work complexes where an entrepreneur could start a company down the hall from his or her apartment.
But developers and investors said they needed more incentives from the city government to invest in what city officials are calling the Innovation District.
"A lot of things are being thrown at the developer. I'm not sure what the contribution of the public sector really is," said Young K. Park, president of Berkeley Investments, who called the overall model "very seductive and unrealistic."
John B. Hynes III, chief executive of Boston Global Investors, a commercial real estate consulting firm, said that while the concepts from architects were "on-target," the cost of buying and transporting building materials has been rising, and developers' attempts to cut construction costs in the past have been fruitless.
Even Tamara Roy, senior associate principal at the Boston-based architecture and design firm ADD Inc., said that the project has "a lot of baggage," and its viability will depend on "the mayor's commitment."
Kairos Shen, director of planning for the Boston Redevelopment Authority, said that Menino has been interested in developing the area since becoming mayor, and is "aiming very high in the market we're going to capture and the city we're going to build.”