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Developer seeks to cut wharf housing

Boston Properties blames a soft luxury housing market for its move. Boston Properties blames a soft luxury housing market for its move. (Boston Properties Inc.)
By Casey Ross
Globe Staff / December 12, 2008
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The builder of Russia Wharf in downtown Boston is proposing to eliminate 150 condominium units from its development because of the declining market for luxury housing in this soft real estate market.

Boston Properties Inc. is seeking to replace the housing units in a building along Atlantic Avenue with 200,000 square feet of office and community space, a move that would reduce the project's total number of residences to 65 from 215, city officials said. The revision must be approved by the Boston Redevelopment Authority, which signaled initial support yesterday. Executives from Boston Properties could not be reached for comment.

The firm is the latest developer of a downtown project to cut housing units. John B. Hynes III, who is redeveloping the Filene's property in Downtown Crossing, plans to drop 166 condos from a 38-story tower he intends to build there. Hynes halted construction on the project last month after he was unable to get additional financing.

The changes to Russia Wharf could provoke objections from residents of the nearby Fort Point neighborhood, who are pushing for more housing in the area. Paul Bernstein, the president of Fort Point Artists Community Inc., said housing is necessary to create a 24-hour neighborhood there. "We want to see a mix of uses. We don't want to see this place empty after 5 p.m.," he said.

But others are eager to see construction move forward. "It's better for everyone to sell 65 units rather than have another 150 sitting there vacant," said Jim Shane, a resident at nearby Rowe's Wharf.

Boston Properties is already deep into construction of Russia Wharf, which includes a 31-story office tower and renovation of the Tufts Graphic Arts building on Atlantic Avenue at the intersection of Congress Street. That building was slated to be nearly all residential, but the new plan would change five of its seven floors to office space. Boston Properties is proposing to spend $10 million for affordable housing as part of the development, including $2 million to pay for permanent housing for Fort Point artists.

Casey Ross can be reached at cross@globe.com.

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