A luxury condo tower overlooking Boston Harbor still needs key state approvals and could be sued by an influential environmental group, but it cleared one big hurdle Thursday night.
The Boston Redevelopment Authority board voted, 5 to 0, to approve a 22-story building at 150 Seaport Blvd., which would turn the site of two waterfront bars into a sweeping glass tower. A development group led by South Boston restaurateur Jon Cronin hopes to start construction on the $260 million, 124-unit condo project next year.
The project has come under fire from the Conservation Law Foundation, which is concerned it would gobble up too much open space along the Seaport’s waterfront. That will be determined in the months to come by the state’s Department of Environmental Protection.
But at a public hearing Thursday night at the BRA, there was little debate.
Supporters stacked up 20 deep at the microphone in a crowded City Hall hearing room to speak in favor of the project and its developer.
“Jon Cronin has a reputation in the neighborhood for over a decade, supporting many, many nonprofits,” South Boston resident Rod McDonald said. “I know that he’s a man of his word.”
He was referring to pledges Cronin has made to use the project — which will cost more than $2 million per condo to build — to help finance various civic assets in South Boston. They include funding for Martin Richard Park at Children’s Wharf, building out new space for the Fort Point Arts Community, and paying for a new stretch of the Harborwalk between Pier 4 and the World Trade Center.
Cronin is also partnering with Tishman Speyer, developer of a condo and office project at neighboring Pier 4, to fund a 46-unit apartment building for low-income seniors at the Boston Housing Authority’s Mary Ellen McCormack complex in South Boston.
“It’s a really unique opportunity for us to leverage this waterfront development for some much-needed affordable housing in South Boston,” said Donna Brown, executive director of the South Boston Neighborhood Development Corp., which is building that project.
Still, 150 Seaport is highly complex.
It requires the BRA to sell a small sliver of city-owned Seaport Boulevard to Cronin’s project. The price will be determined by an appraisal, a BRA attorney said. It also hinges on an underwater land swap with Pier 4, which would enable decking to be built above the surface for the Harborwalk. That would also make Cronin’s site big enough to avoid a complicated rezoning process.
After BRA staff explained all those machinations, the board voted quickly to OK the project.
“I remember when a project like this would have [been] unthinkable in that neighborhood,” board member Ted Landsmark said.
The BRA board Thursday also approved a nine-building, 656-unit apartment and condo development in the Andrew Square section of South Boston. Dubbed Washington Village, the project is aiming to bring middle-class housing and a grocery store to the area and had strong support from neighborhood residents Thursday night.
The board also approved redevelopment of the Orient Heights public housing complex in East Boston, a 44-unit condominium building on Washington Street in Jamaica Plain, and two smaller apartment buildings in South Boston.