New Street Waterfront Meeting Canceled, Future of Project is Uncertain

A Boston Redevelopment Authority sponsored meeting concerning the New Street waterfront project was abruptly canceled last week–adding to growing frustration that development along East Boston’s shores is again stalling.

The meeting was scheduled for Thursday, August 2 but at the last minute the developer, New Street Reality Trust pulled out of the meeting offering no explanation besides they could not move forward on the project at this point.

Rumors were abound by Monday that the developer could not secure financing for the project or that the developer wanted to do a non-union development.

Project manager Jamie Faye of Four Point Associates would not comment on the rumors and said he would pass our questions along to the developer. However, the developer did not get back to us by press time.

Last month, the owners of the waterfront parcel filed a change of proposal with the BRA.

Varney Hintlian, a trustee for New Street Reality Trust, said he planed to convert the former industrial building on 6-26 New Street into residential units. However, Hintlian was planning a scaled down version of a plan that was approved by the BRA last year. The former plan would have added 224 waterfront units and expanded the building to 15 stories.

The new plan had 44 percent less square footage and only calls for 163 units.

The change, according to Hintlian, was made to make the $90 million project work economically.

Hintlian also announced that they recently received $3.7 million loan from East Cambridge Savings Bank and is seeking additional financing.

The original plan was much more dramatic and consisted of redevelopment and expansion of the existing 9-story building to 15 stories, create 224 residential units and construction of a two-level parking garage to the north of the building. The project’s first phase would have also included the demolition of three existing buildings, construction of a Harbor Walk connection along the waterfront with a connection to LoPresti Park, construction of a water taxi landing in the Designated Port Area  (DPA) and water taxi waiting area adjacent to the DPA, removal of existing pile fields, construction of a DPA vehicle access route from New Street, creation of surface parking in the southeastern area of the site and creation of lawn and open space on the remainder of the site.

Phase 2 of the project would have included construction of a six-story building to provide 59 residential units or 106 hotel/extended stay units, an underground parking garage, construction of a single story building for a restaurant or other Facility of Public Accommodation (FPA), construction of a recreational marina to the south of the DPA and dredging of approximately 2,300 cubic yards to support the marina.

However, last month New Street Reality Trust had no desire to undergo a massive redevelopment project with the size and scope that was first approved by the BRA.

This had disappointed some because the former proposal, which received widespread support from the community and elected officials, was touted as the waterfront development project that gave other developers the confidence to put shovels in the ground along Eastie’s shore. The speed at which the New Street project had been permitted and its attractive design was fast becoming the benchmark for other developments like Hodge Boiler Works, Pier I and Clippership Wharf. Some looked to the New Street project as being  the first wave of waterfront development along Eastie’s shore after a decade of starts and stops by big time developers like Roseland, Winn and Denormandie.

Many felt after shovels are in the ground at New Street, other multimillion-dollar developments could begin shortly thereafter.

It has also made some uneasy as Mayor Thomas Menino’s call for waterfront development has coincided with a push to put a resort-style casino at Suffolk Downs. While there has been jubilation over Menino’s call to arms for waterfront developers to get started in Eastie, some believe these large scale, high-end waterfront developments are quickly being downgraded. Already, Clippership Wharf has gone from high-end condos to a plan to construct market rate rental units. The project also called for brick construction like the developments along Charlestown and the North End’s waterfronts. However, that too has changed as developer Arthur Winn plans to now use wood construction instead.

The 3.93-acre New Street site is located in the southwestern comer of Eastie’s waterfront.  It is bound by New Street and Maverick Landing to the east, LoPresti Park to the south, Boston  Inner Harbor to the west and the Boston Towing and Transportation Companies property to the  north.  It is located in close proximity to Maverick Square and the MBTA’s Blue Line Maverick  Station.

Hintlian told the Herald last month that the project would still include elements of restaurant space, a water taxi and public access but would only add two stories to the nine-story warehouse. Also gone from the project is construction of a six-story building to provide the 59 residential units or 106  hotel/extended stay units and an underground parking garage.

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