Tall Towers Proposed for Waterfront Next to Other Tall Towers

The public gets its first full look at Donald Chiofaro’s project.

Those who have been clamoring for years for Boston to have a skyline resembling New York’s and Chicago’s are one step closer to achieving their dream while those who kind of like the way things are already are balled up in the fetal position in their swanky downtown condos.

Donald Chiofaro, founder of his eponymous real estate development and management company, released new renderings of two mixed-use towers he is proposing for Boston’s Waterfront. This is the first time the public has seen how the new buildings will appear against the rest of the city’s skyline.

Prior to Wednesday, Chiofaro hadn’t given anyone an idea of the buildings’ designs; he had released images of what the first several floors would look like, and what the street-level uses would be, but nothing like this.

And the buildings are … tall. The new renderings cleverly place the towers in context to the buildings around them and the shots are only from the Boston Harbor looking in (west); nothing from the downtown area looking at it (east).

This is no accident. Earlier designs showed everything, and opponents of the project—from former mayor Tom Menino to residents of the two condo projects next door to lovers of open space—had a lot to criticize. So the earlier proposals met resistance and were eventually tossed out.

It seems the developer is learning from his mistakes and realizing that development is as much about PR as it is glass and steel. Chiofaro released the first drawings as an appetizer and emphasized all the good he and his project would bring to the Waterfront, as well as to nearby residents, as well as visitors to the city.

Reaction last month when Chiofaro released details of his new proposal for the first time was generally positive and then he followed that meeting up and went in for the jugular. “It’s not often the city finds itself with the opportunity for a transformative moment,” Chiofaro said. “But that moment is now before us.”

Part of the Chiofaro team’s PR effort is to listen to critics of the project and then adapt—or appear to adapt. Revisions to his earlier proposals reduce the buildings’ heights and increase public access from the street and the addition of a public “Harbor Square.” Of course, it was unlikely he was going to get the project approved as first proposed, anyway. Ask for a foot and you’ll get an inch, as the saying goes.

To the general public, the enormity of the project—$1 billion, 1.2 million square feet of space, 250 hotel rooms, 120 condos—isn’t all that that important. They’re more focused on the amenities at Harbor Square being offered by Chiofaro for all to enjoy year-round, and that there will be a 1,400-space parking garage for their visits to the city.

But, those aren’t the people that the developer has to please in order to get the project built. Residents of the Harbor Towers condo project next door are  almost universal in opposition to the latest proposal, it appears, since 1,000 of them signed a letter earlier this week objecting to it.

“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,” wrote the trustees of the two buildings’ condo associations.

The generalities of the project are all that matter to the public, but to those who live here—residents, you know, the ones who actually pay property taxes to keep our streets safe and clean—there’s a lot more at stake.

The level of influence they should be able to wield is the question.


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