We’ve fought too hard for our waterfront to cede it to development
Re “Letters blast Harbor tower: Agency publishes comments critical of Chiofaro proposal” (Business, Nov. 4): As an urbanist, a design architect, and an abutter, my outrage at the Pinnacle at Central Wharf is rooted in the way this proposal manipulates the very protections, such as the Municipal Harbor Plan, that were enacted to defend our civic well-being against private development.
It was only with enormous effort that Central Wharf, the jewel in our crown along the downtown waterfront, was clawed back from having probably the worst building sites in town. We must recognize that this is a reclaimed resource — indeed, a rescued one. Our waterfront exists today only because it was diligently husbanded, re-created by 60 years of civic vision, institutional commitment, citizen involvement, and enormous resources.
It is time to build something worthwhile, something genuinely for the public good in this last, best opportunity on our downtown waterfront. We know it is possible because we transformed the Central Artery into the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway. We must get back to civic development of our precious city.
The writer has been the chair of the urban design committee of the Boston Society of Architects and is a fellow of the American Institute of Architects.
A giant gated community is the height of unwelcoming
I came to Boston 23 years ago. Having grown up in New York, where I began work years ago as a commercial diver, I was familiar with dirty, unattractive waters that I assumed were the inevitable nature of all urban harbors. And this was true in Boston — until now.
Thanks to the Boston Harbor Project, an ambitious environmental cleanup effort that has allowed the estuary to slowly clean itself, the harbor and its adjacent waterfront have become an attractive feature of life in Boston.
There is now a proposal to erect on the waterfront a monstrous, mind-blowing 600-foot, 44-story edifice housing office space, retail, and luxury apartments. A building of this scale, a celebration of price, privilege, and prestige, would aesthetically dominate the waterfront for the rest of our lives. It is grotesquely out of scale, and I doubt there is a critical shortage of luxury living in Boston that has to be addressed.
The developer suggests that this skyscraper will be a spectacular gateway to the waterfront, but this is really no more than an enormous vertical gated community. What could be less welcoming?
Consider the words of the late Henry Cobb, an ‘architect’s architect’
In discussions about the Pinnacle project on the waterfront, the development views of one of Boston’s most respected architects, the late Henry Cobb, have been largely ignored by the Boston Planning and Development Agency, the developers, the media, and the project proponents.
Cobb, “an architect’s architect” who “helped transform” Boston, died in March at 93. An appreciation in the Globe included the following: “Mr. Cobb was also notably candid. ‘Disastrous,’ he called Harbor Towers, in a 1998 Globe interview. ‘A fundamental problem . . . for which I hold myself responsible, is the idea of towers [there] to begin with. It’s a misuse of a very precious asset. It’s not what one would wish to see there.’ ”
Given Cobb’s mea culpa — something architects rarely confess to — that his own Harbor Towers was “disastrous,” he would undoubtedly have considered the Pinnacle to be a monumental disaster, and surely another misuse of a precious asset.
At 600 feet, the Pinnacle would be an overwhelming 200 feet higher than Harbor Towers. Heck, this Boston behemoth would be twice as tall as the Statue of Liberty and 45 feet taller than the Washington Monument.
A Godzilla on the waterfront “is not what one would wish to see there.”
Building’s scale is too great
Removing Harbor Garage is necessary to recreate Central Wharf, but a 600-foot behemoth? There has been no meaningful compromise on the scale of the building. A massive tower such as Pinnacle at Central Wharf would inflict a deadly wound on our waterfront.
My wife and I bought our condo on Broad Street in 2016. We and our neighbors would see our valuations ruined by the excessive units planned for this tower. Already, there is a 12-story building approved at India and Purchase streets. Units in the Boulevard building at Purchase and Broad streets are still unoccupied, years after the building was completed.
Furthermore, traffic effects of building activity at this gargantuan scale will clog Purchase Street, Atlantic Avenue, and adjacent streets for years.
J. Phillip Cooper