Haymarket vendors delay choice of developer

Builders have more time to polish plans for Greenway site

By Casey Ross
Globe Staff / December 5, 2009

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A round of 11th-hour lobbying by Haymarket food vendors has upset the process for selecting a builder for the last undeveloped parcel along the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway.

During a state transportation meeting this week, the vendors questioned an apartment building proposal by Eastat Realty Capital that had the backing of Boston officials. After listening to the pushcart vendors, the board of the Massachusetts Transportation Department, which owns the land, postponed the selection of a developer until its January meeting.

The postponement has reignited competition among four bidders for the property, which sits at North and Blackstone streets - an intersection where Boston officials are trying to create a daily market district to sell the products of local growers, bakers, and food merchants. The market would be similar to Seattle’s Pike Place or Reading Terminal in Philadelphia.

All the bidders have proposed a ground-floor food market on the property, but they differ significantly on what would be put on the upper floors of their developments. Gutierrez Co. of Burlington wants to build offices; the DeNormandie Cos. want offices and art galleries; Eastat wants parking and 78 apartments; and Boston Museum wants a building devoted to Massachusetts history.

The final shape of the facility will have a significant impact on the Haymarket vendors, who have been gathering each weekend to sell produce and fish nearby on Blackstone Street for more than a century.

Initially, the vendors expressed support for Eastat’s apartment proposal, but during this week’s meeting they threw their backing to the DeNormandie plan for offices and galleries.

In a letter to the board, the vendors said they feared people living in the apartments would not be willing to put up with the noise they make early in the morning and other issues.

“Having the market operate below apartments will create a war every week from here on out,’’ said Frank Fisichella, a member of the Haymarket association’s board.

But an executive with Eastat said the company has designed its proposed building to minimize residents’ exposure to the outdoor vendors.

“We have worked extensively with the Haymarket association to craft a plan that improves their two-day-a-week market,’’ said Eamon O’Marah, a managing partner with Eastat. “Two-thirds of the building is facing the Greenway and not the market.’’

Other bidders are using the additional time to renew their pitches for the property.

“I can produce the best product for what the city is trying to accomplish, which is a first-class market district,’’ said Philip DeNormandie, who owns a row of aging buildings across from the parcel.

Bill Caulder of Gutierrez Co. said offices above the market would best suit the area, especially because of the parcel’s proximity to bustling Faneuil Hall; and executives with Boston Museum said they are not giving up the fight either.

“The parcel demands a landmark civic and cultural use. We will continue to work tirelessly in the days ahead to bring that vision into reality,’’ said museum president Frank Keefe.

Casey Ross can be reached at