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City takes another stab at moving forward plans for harborfront tower

Developer Don Chiofaro wants to build a 600-foot tower along Atlantic Avenue near the New England Aquarium.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

The City of Boston has taken another stab at moving forward stalled plans for a skyscraper on the site of the Boston Harbor Garage.

Development officials on Tuesday released a new zoning plan that would allow developer Don Chiofaro to build a 600-foot tower along Atlantic Avenue near the New England Aquarium, but would require more open space at street level, a nod to the aquarium and other neighbors who worry the project might wall off the waterfront. The plan also requires Chiofaro to contribute $5 million toward a new park on Long Wharf, and $5 million to help the aquarium move its IMAX Theater.


The plan will need approval from the Boston Planning & Development Agency and state environmental officials. And it’s not clear the proposals are enough to win over neighbors and other critics who have opposed Chiofaro’s efforts to remake the site. But Chiofaro says he can live with the plan, which increased the open-space requirement on the site to 50 percent from 30 percent.

“It means we’re one step closer to getting this done,” said Don Chiofaro Jr., who’s spearheading the project for Chiofaro Co. “We’ll have less retail, less public [space] in the building, but it still gives us enough space to do what we need.”

Officials at the aquarium, which has emerged as an influential critic of Chiofaro’s plans, were still studying the new zoning Tuesday afternoon, said spokesman Tony LaCasse.

“The Aquarium wants to be clear that we have not negotiated or reached a deal with the Harbor Garage owner or developer,” he said in an e-mail.

BPDA officials said they drafted the changes after reviewing comments from neighbors, many of whom pushed for more open space at new development in a 42-acre district stretching from Long Wharf to the Moakley Bridge. They also filled in details requiring Chiofaro to provide parking and financial support for the aquarium and other waterfront businesses during construction of the tower.


“We’ve been emphasizing the importance of open space,” said Rich McGuinness, deputy director for waterfront planning at the BPDA. “And we want to protect our waterfront uses.”

While the BPDA plans another round of public meetings on the plan, officials said they hope to schedule a board vote on the zoning in February or March. The plan would then go to state environmental officials. Specific projects, such as Chiofaro’s tower and a proposed 305-foot building at the site owned by Hook Lobster, would then need individual approvals.

It’s the closest yet the zoning plan — which has been years in the works — has come to completion. But critics of Chiofaro’s tower made clear Tuesday that they’re not yet on board.

Lee Kozol, chair of the garage committee at the Harbor Towers condo complex, said his organization was “grateful” that BPDA would mandate more open space. But it remains skeptical about the size of what Chiofaro would build next door.

“We continue to believe that there may be good redevelopment solutions that do not require a tower of almost a million square feet right on the water’s edge,” Kozol said in a statement.

Tim Logan can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @bytimlogan.