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Menino to pitch planning today, mayor to address park space, pier

By Anthony Flint, Globe Staff, 02/08/00

Sounding more and more like an urban planner, Mayor Thomas M. Menino wants to increase park space and reduce the height of the proposed $1.2 billion Fan Pier complex on the South Boston Waterfront.

In his annual speech before business leaders at the Municipal Research Bureau lunch today, Menino will also launch his most detailed pitch to date urging the construction of a new Fenway Park.

For redeveloping the Fenway area, Menino will urge a combination of funds. D3

The speech, which was released in abbreviated form yesterday, is a sweeping blueprint for the array of projects under way in Boston - from the waterfront to the Central Artery surface to "air rights" over the Massachusetts Turnpike.

It is the clearest indication yet that Menino is immersed in planning and development issues, after firing the director of the Boston Redevelopment Authority last fall. Menino hired a new director, Mark Maloney, who does not start for a few weeks.

Advisers say the speech is an effort to show the mayor is carefully managing Boston's growth, but at the same time ensuring that several large projects are actually built in his tenure - to become part of his legacy as mayor, much as Faneuil Hall Marketplace was a signature project for Kevin H. White.

The Fan Pier proposal, a nine-block, mixed-use project next to the new federal courthouse, is by the Chicago-based Pritzker family, owners of the Hyatt hotel chain. It calls for two hotels, three residential buildings, three office buildings, and a new home for the Institute of Contemporary Art.

Menino has supported the Fan Pier proposal, but state environmental regulators and harbor advocacy groups have criticized the complex as too dense and potentially leading to traffic jams in the area.

Accordingly, Menino is expected to call today on the Pritzkers to reduce a 290-foot office building slated for the foot of a cove, close to Anthony's Pier 4 restaurant, to 250 feet. The mayor also wants the developers to change a proposed skating rink into a park. Pam McDermott, spokeswoman for the Pritzkers, declined to comment.

"The mayor is pushing the developers in the right direction. In the end the city might have to be more aggressive in reshaping the project, because Fan Pier isn't just too tall, it's too big. It's not clear you can build 3 million square feet on that site," said Stephanie Pollack, vice president of the Conservation Law Foundation.

Pollack said it was encouraging, however, if the mayor's speech was "an indication that the city is not going to just blindly accept what the developers are offering to build."

In the speech, Menino points out positive aspects of the Fan Pier proposal, such as views to the water that are "better than the view corridors at Rowes Wharf." He also praises the new home for the ICA and the creation of housing units for the waterfront.

"We need to think about turning dreams into reality," Menino says in the speech. "We don't need to build another International Place on the water to get the urban density we need, but the waterfront won't be another low-rise, Harbor Point [style] development either."

Menino says reducing one of the Pritzkers' office buildings to 250 feet is more in keeping with the height of buildings near the World Trade Center. But the Pritzkers would still have a nearly 300-foot tall hotel building next to the 150-foot federal courthouse, and a 276-foot office building next to that.

Menino says the waterfront will "not become another Kendall Square," a reference to concerns aired by developer Frank McCourt. "We're building a city, not a suburb," the mayor says in the speech, citing his goal of 4,000 residences in 10 years to promote 24-hour activity.

The mayor also provides updates in the speech on other Boston hotspots, including the 27-acre corridor of open space to be created when the Central Artery goes underground.



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