Normandy Real Estate Partners/Jones Lang LaSalle/Perkins + Will Architects
Tempers flared in the North End on Wednesday night, as residents reviewed proposals for development of a coveted empty lot between the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway and Blackstone Street.
Both the president of the Haymarket Pushcart Association and a lawyer for the organization accused a developer of claiming favored status with the state Department of Transportation, which will choose the winning proposal.
Ottavio Gallotto, the association’s president, and attorney Emilio Favorito said Eamon O’Marah, a senior vice president at Jones Lang LaSalle, told pushcart vendors that MassDOT staff preferred the Haymarket Square hotel development his firm proposed in partnership with Normandy Real Estate Partners.
O’Marah said they had misinterpreted his message.
“I think you completely misunderstood. In ’09, we were recommended for designation. That’s what I said,” O’Marah said, referring to a previous round of proposals for the site that MassDOT ultimately threw out, beginning the process anew in 2010.
“In 2009 we were recommended for designation at a board meeting, at which you attended and said, ‘No housing can go at this site,’” he continued, addressing Gallotto.
“That is absolutely a lie,” Favorito shot back.
John Romano, a municipal affairs liaison for MassDOT, said the department had made no statements favoring either proponent.
The Haymarket Square team proposed a building with a 180-room limited service hotel that would rise to 84 feet at the lot’s North Street end but drop down to a single story with an eye-catching, zig-zagging roof for more than half of its length.
The first story would include a supermarket, a small restaurant, and a small retail space, as well as space for offices, garbage disposal, and storage for the pushcart vendors. A second-floor space would be set aside as a community room, with the rest of the upper floors devoted to 180 hotel rooms.
The team spoke Wednesday night at the Mariners House in North Square, alongside the Blackstone Market team, whose design has a similar overall shape and also envisions a market and a community room.
But the Blackstone Market building would be taller in both its high and low portions, with more space for restaurants. Instead of a hotel, it would include a nine-story section containing 70 apartments, up from 50 in an earlier plan.
The Blackstone Market proposal added the community room in place of a greenhouse that met with little enthusiasm, and it reduced agricultural space on the “green roof” of its low-slung section. It also added two floors of apartments, raising its maximum height to 104 feet, 20 more than the Haymarket Square proposal.
The Haymarket Square proponents reduced their project’s overall size, shrinking the lower section to a single story and pushing the edge of the hotel component back further from Hanover Street. But they added height, going from six floors with a small rooftop restaurant to a full eight floors, allowing it to retain the planned 180 guest rooms.
These proposals beat out two others to compete in this final round of consideration: one would have brought a museum of Boston history to the site; the other would have included 119 small apartments.
The Haymarket Square proposal is the clear underdog, with the Blackstone Market proposal having already won the support of City Councilor Salvatore LaMattina, State Representative Aaron Michelwitz, State Senator Anthony Petrucelli, and the powerful pushcart association.
Already pushcart vendors have worked out a preliminary agreement with the Blackstone Market developers, led by Philip DeNormandie, who also owns 10 properties in the Blackstone Block adjacent to Parcel 9 and envisions the Blackstone Market as part of an overall plan to redevelop the area.
While that plan met with a largely warm reception, there were several moments of tension between representatives of the pushcart vendors and the Haymarket Square team.
Former State Representative Emmanuel “Gus” Serra, who said he was a third-generation Haymarket pushcart license holder, said the Haymarket Square team had been slow to work with the pushcart vendors and to integrate their concerns and feedback into the proposal.
Justin D. Krebs, a principal at Normandy Real Estate Partners, lead developer for Haymarket Square, countered that his team had tried to observe the process dictated by MassDOT.
Krebs said MassDOT stipulated that developers were not allowed to work out agreements with stakeholders — such as the agreement between the Blackstone Market team and the pushcart vendors — outside the public review process.
“We were directed that no side agreements, no separate agreements were to be done without the process,” Krebs said.
A public comment period for the proposals opened Thursday and will close on April 4. Comments may be sent by e-mail to MassDot.RE@dot.state.ma or by letter to the following address:
RE: Parcel 9
10 Park Plaza, Suite 4170
Boston, MA 02116
Blackstone Market LLC/Sy Mintz/Utile Inc.