Through years of redevelopment around it, Anthony’s Pier 4 has remained largely the same, serving up New England seafood classics in a brick restaurant at the edge of Boston Harbor.
But next month the changes that are rapidly redefining the Seaport District will finally arrive at Anthony’s doorstep.
Construction will begin on a massive complex that will eventually displace Anthony’s from its perch at the edge of the pier, and could mark the last chapter of the venerable restaurant. The project includes construction of three glass-walled buildings with hundreds of new residences, a hotel, and multiple restaurants.
Most important, a 1-acre waterfront park will be built where Anthony’s now stands. And for now the Athanas family, which owns the restaurant, has not settled on a new location — whether in one of the new buildings going up on Pier 4, or elsewhere in the Seaport.
“They’re still weighing their options,” said Douglass Karp, an executive with New England Development, the property’s master developer. “We think the world of those guys, and we’re committed to continuing to work with them.”
Anthony’s owners did not return a phone call Tuesday for comment.
The restaurant will remain open while the first new building at Pier 4 goes up, a 21-story apartment and retail tower along Northern Avenue. But it will have to close its current location when construction starts on the park, which is not likely for several years.
Ironically, the Pier 4 redevelopment will in many ways realize the original vision for the property by the restaurant’s founder, Anthony Athanas.
In the 1980s, when most of the Seaport was largely parking lots and empty industrial land, Athanas pressed to build a mixed-use development that would transform the land between Pier 4 and Fort Point Channel into “the next jewel in Boston’s crown.”
But Athanas lost control of much of the property in a legal battle with his former development partner, the Pritzker family of Chicago, and in the late 1990s hesold the development rights to Pier 4 itself to New England Development. Athanas died in 2005 at the age of 93. His family continues to operate the restaurant.
The plan by New England Development will dramatically change Pier 4, filling its half-empty parking lots with homes, and providing new opportunities for the public to access the harbor and dine along its edges.
The company has sold the parcel on Northern Avenue to The Hanover Co. of Houston, which will build the 369-unit apartment and retail tower.
“We’re going to construct an elegant-looking building that will provide a new place to live and collaborate for the workers who are coming into the neighborhood,” said David Hall, an executive with Hanover.
The $195 million project will include a mix of unit sizes from studios to three-bedroom apartments, a restaurant, and an underground parking garage next to the Institute for Contemporary Art.
Hall said executives are planning a groundbreaking ceremony with Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino in mid-November.
New England Development will follow Hanover’s project with two buildings of its own — a hotel or office tower in the middle of Pier 4, and a condominium building and public park on the portion closest to the water, where Anthony’s has been operating for nearly 50 years. It remains unclear when that work will begin.
The waterfront’s rapid redevelopment — which is bringing new office buildings, several apartment towers, and modern restaurants — is edging out longtime businesses such as Anthony’s and Jimmy’s Harborside, which was demolished in 2007 after operating down Northern Avenue for eight decades.
Those restaurants were pioneers in the neighborhood and for generations of Bostonians became the go-to choice for graduation dinners, birthday parties, and other family celebrations. While their names continue to evoke nostalgia, many welcome the new businesses opening in the district.
Jimmy’s was redeveloped into the sleek, glass Liberty Wharf complex that now hosts popular eateries such as Legal’s Harborside, Temazcal Tequila Cantina, and Del Frisco’s steakhouse.
Along with new restaurants at Fan Pier, those businesses are starting to establish a consistent nightlife on the waterfront that in prior years was confined to weekend dinners at Jimmy’s, Anthony’s, and the No Name Restaurant.
“We all owe them a great debt for getting people to come and appreciate the waterfront in the first place,” said Vivien Li, president of the Boston Harbor Association, which advocates for greater access to the water. “I love a lot of the new restaurants, but what makes the waterfront and so much of Boston unique is the mix of old and new.”