Three theaters proposed for the last large undeveloped portion of the Seaport are a nice idea, but one of them should instead be a public library branch, says state Representative Nick Collins.
Collins, a Democrat who represents South Boston and the waterfront, said he’d like a neighborhood library to replace the smallest of the three theaters proposed last week by WS Development, owner of the 12.5-acre Seaport Square site.
Collins said most of the Seaport’s civic spaces, including District Hall, are leased for public use but are under private ownership and are not guaranteed to remain accessible. A theater, he said, would not necessarily be “a community space, because it’s going to be as public as the [Boston] Opera House is.”
A library would also give the growing neighborhood a conveniently located polling place during elections, Collins said. He plans to submit a letter outlining his proposal to the Boston Planning & Development Agency prior to a Wednesday meeting on the project.
Seaport Square is the city’s last chance to push for a publicly owned and operated space, like a library, that would be welcoming to people of all income levels in the city’s newest neighborhood and booming business district, he said.
“I’m looking for one space that can bring everybody together and can be utilized by all facets of the community,” Collins said.
“These developments are going to be lasting in their impacts to not just the South Boston Waterfront, but the city.
“When we look back decades from now, are we going to say to ourselves that we did it right?”
In a statement, Yanni Tsipis, who oversees the Seaport project for WS Development, did not respond directly to Collins’s plan.
“Our proposal will create a number of spaces that will be set aside for future civic uses by nonprofit organizations,” Tsipis said in an e-mail.
“We are very open-minded about all possibilities for these spaces and will be guided by the city and the community to help bring a variety of civic uses to the Seaport.”
In 2015, WS Development paid $359 million to buy the undeveloped portion of the site, where it wants to add 1.3 million square feet of office space and housing. The ongoing Seaport Square development encompasses a total of 23 acres and includes high-end housing and office towers.
In response to pressure from city officials and the arts community, WS Development last week filed documents indicating it would create a Seaport Performing Arts Center, or SeaPAC, with two venues totaling 650 seats on Summer Street, and a third low-cost community theater of 100 to 150 seats.
Instead of the third theater, Collins said, WS Development should put about $10 million in a trust to fund a mostly digital public library with a coffee shop, meeting rooms, and a larger auditorium that can serve as a community theater, as well as host other presentations and meetings.
The Boston Public Library’s president, David Leonard, declined to comment on Collins’s proposal.
The $116 million officials have earmarked for library projects over the next five years does not include the Seaport District, a library spokeswoman said in an e-mail.
A spokeswoman for the BPDA said it’s reviewing the revised project proposal and will take “all feedback into consideration” in the weeks ahead.
With the Seaport District’s build-out almost complete, Valerie Burns, a 34-year resident of adjacent Fort Point, said this is the last chance to have a conversation about additional public space.
“Our parks, the Harborwalk, District Hall, they’re all basically private places that are basically public use by negotiation,” Burns said. “There should be a public place that should be truly civic and public in the neighborhoods.”