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New rendering for waterfront towers is unveiled

Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates

A rendering showing a view of the new Harbor Towers buildings from the harbor. The new buildings are at the center of the rendering, to the right of the existing Harbor Towers buildings.

Standing before a jam-packed meeting room Wednesday, developer Donald J. Chiofaro lifted the veil on his plan for one of the city’s largest development sites, showing a pair of angular skyscrapers that would redefine the downtown waterfront.

The towers -- one clad in glass, the other in terra cotta -- would rise to 600 feet along Atlantic Avenue and infuse modern architecture into a corner of the city dominated by structures built many decades ago.

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“It’s not often the city finds itself with the opportunity for a transformative moment,” Chiorfaro said. “But that moment is now before us.”

Chiofaro had previously disclosed that he wanted to replace the Harbor Garage with a pair of tall buildings containing residences, stores and offices. But he showed off complete images of the structures for the first time at Wednesday’s meeting.

Designed by the firm Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates of New York, the $1 billion complex would form a new gateway to the city from the water and create an eastern terminus for the high-spine of towers than runs between the Back Bay and the waterfront.

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The project would contain a total of 1.3 million square feet of residential and commercial space, including up to 300 hotel rooms, 120 condominiums, 700,000 square feet of offices and three levels of retail stores. On the ground floor, a public arcade would be constructed to connect the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway to Boston Harbor, and 1,400 parking spaces would be built underground.

Chiofaro’s proposal is under review by a waterfront planning committee crafting broader building regulations for a swath of the waterfront between Christopher Columbus Park and the Northern Avenue Bridge. The committee’s recommendations will heavily influence whether Chiofaro will be able to move forward with the massive buildings he is proposing.

Some neighbors in a large condominium complex filed a long list of objections on Wednesday, arguing the project is too big for the property.

“We believe the proposed development is historically and contemporaneously inappropriate in scale, height and density for a location adjacent to two Boston treasures, the Rose Kennedy Greenway and the Harbor,” two trustees of Harbor Towers wrote in a letter to city officials.

The letter said the project would worsen traffic, result in high winds, and cast shadows on the water and surrounding properties. The trustees also questioned whether Chiofaro’s arcade through the building constitutes open space under state regulations meant to protect public access to the water.

However, other residents of Harbor Towers who attended the meeting Wednesday voiced their approval of the proposed new towers.

Chiofaro said the arcade represents a dramatic improvement from the total lack of public space on the Harbor Garage site currently. He noted that it would allow for year-round festivals and public events, and open new views of the water from the greenway.

Chiofaro closed his presentation with a series of images of other major structures in the city -- his International Place buildings, the John Hancock Tower, the Custom House Tower and Prudential Center.

All of them, he said, were seen as unusually tall at the time they were built an have since become signature elements of a thriving city.

“The project we have been discussing for the last two months looks like nothing else on the Boston skyline and nothing else at the ground level,” Chiofaro said. “In its uniqueness, it shares a common bond with a distinguished collection of Boston architecture and engineering.”

Casey Ross can be reached at cross@globe.com.
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