Another Grand Plan for the South Boston Waterfront

The redevelopment of Boston’s waterfront has been a start-stop affair in recent years. Now, another grand project is planned for the area, and this one is particularly ambitious.

Seaport Square
Seaport Square
Images courtesy Gale International
Seaport Square is a planned, 23-acre development featuring 19 buildings designed by Studio Daniel Libeskind, HOK, and CBT Architects, among others.

In May, developer Gale International and partner Morgan Stanley filed a proposal for Seaport Square, a 23-acre mixed-used development featuring 19 buildings designed by the likes of Studio Daniel Libeskind, HOK, and CBT Architects. The 6.5-million-square-foot, $3.5 billion project—one of the largest development projects in Boston’s history—amounts to an attempt to create an instant urban village, complete with housing, offices, hotels, shops, parks, and cultural venues. The plan also includes two schools and a library, and some 6,500 parking spaces located mostly below ground.

The first structure slated for construction is a six-story residential building with commercial space designed by Boston-based Hacin + Associates. Overall, the Seaport Square plan calls for a 50-50 split in housing stock between condominiums and rental units, with 30 percent of all units labeled low- to moderate-income housing.

The entire Seaport Square scheme covers 20 blocks. Kohn Pedersen designed the initial master plan, and ADD Inc. later refined it. “It's textured and scaled to its surroundings, but the buildings are fairly modern," says ADD associate principal Tamara Roy, AIA. The developer is working with the city to ensure new streets and sidewalks match those in the surrounding area, says Jessica Shumaker, spokeswoman for the Boston Redevelopment Authority.

The site—now a desert of asphalt containing surface parking lots and access roads—has been the focus of wrangling between a succession of owners and the city. The current mayor’s plans for the area include the controversial, and far from certain, relocation of City Hall.

Some area residents say the public presentation of the Seaport Square project last spring hit many of the right notes, but they are wary of what they see as a preponderance of upscale housing, and a commercial district that is car-centric. Drew Volpe, board member of Fort Point Neighborhood Alliance, a local community group, says he would prefer that the plan have a more pedestrian scale and historic character. “It would do a lot,” he says, “to make it feel like a neighborhood instead of an office park.”