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A Contendah Wins The Match

Posted by Jim Botticelli  September 19, 2013 01:07 PM

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Harbor Towers.jpg

Survivalists: The Brutalist Harbor Towers (Republished with photo edit)

"Mathematics, rightly viewed, possesses not only truth, but supreme beauty - a beauty cold and austere, like that of sculpture" ... Bertrand Russell

"Architecture is the art of how to waste space" ... Philip Johnson

With today's multi-million dollar pricetags on interior "wrap-around" condominiums, one would be hard pressed to believe that upon opening in 1971, Harbor Towers was a plan for affordable housing near the Financial District. Upon arrival they were generally derided as 400 foot Brutalist monstrosities out of character with this provincial port city. Separated from the district it was built to serve by the beloved Central Artery, and surrounded by more pavement and gravel parking lots per acre than any other area of the city, the towers were something to drive past quickly--if that was possible with the growing traffic problems facing the city. The 17th and 18th century architecture and culture of the North End may as well have been in Italy for all the commonality it had with these cretinesque boxes. So it was thought.

Bring on the Roaring 80's. The condo conversion craze that swept everything from stalwart Back Bay bastions to tri-deckers in Dot changed everything. With the future taking shape for a new waterfront, the previously implausible became visible to those with imagination. Special incentives offered Tower renters attractive purchase discounts and created a "go for the gold" mentality that found many dwellers, perhaps tired of being scoffed for being there to begin with, buying up multiple units at prices that would make today's newcomers blanche.

DOB submits that in 2013 the former skulking beanstalks are reeling pleasurably from Future Shock. Jack has chopped out the giant disease and rather than replacing the towers, has adapted the 'hood to make them fit in. The much-maligned towers have survived and thrived, the waterfront is now transformed, and tenants who purchased homes early in the
process may have seen the largest increases in property values of any
Boston location. Alvin Toffler lives!
The imposing towers with 624 units on the waterfront are now a
premiere address for downtown dwellers, with the very best views of the city
and harbor. End of story. S/He who laughs last laughs best.

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This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
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About the author

Jim Botticelli, a 1976 Northeastern University graduate, is a retired Boston Public Schools teacher. In college, he drove a cab and learned the city's cow paths. An avid collector of More »

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