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Old 09-06-2006, 04:14 AM   #26
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Originally Posted by The Globe
Fan Pier shaping up as a Back Bay for 21st century
Instead of stately red brick, plans for the upscale neighborhood call for lots of glass and irregular angles, all to maximize water views

By Thomas C. Palmer Jr., Globe Staff | September 6, 2006

Decades in the making, Fan Pier is finally taking shape on paper as a new Boston neighborhood, with its own identity, like the Back Bay. But the two couldn't look less alike.

Both are on filled land, both along scenic urban bodies of water. But the Back Bay, with its blocks of 19th century red-brick row houses, conveys history and tradition. Developer Joseph F. Fallon's look for Fan Pier is 21st century, emphasizing walls of glass, irregular angles, and varying heights -- all the better to maximize views and more views.

The first four buildings of a total of eight include two balconied hotel and residential towers of mostly greenish glass, with wings of precast yellowish masonry. Closer to downtown, two office buildings also show a lot of glass, but some is blue; one building has a light brown masonry, the other off-white.

``There are very few opportunities like this one," Fallon said in a recent interview. He bought the long-stagnant Fan Pier development site for $115 million a year ago and is scheduled to unveil the specifics of his plan for the 21 acres next week, with a presentation at the Westin Boston Waterfront hotel. ``You really can do something special here," he said.

On a recent morning in his office, looking out at the nearly completed Park Lane Seaport residences Fallon is building nearby on Northern Avenue, the developer stacked and restacked plastic blocks, demonstrating how the Fan Pier buildings and blocks took shape.

Some buildings have multiple floors on one side of a block -- but are low, only a couple of floors, on the other side. The valleys those varied heights create maximize views from the buildings toward the downtown skyline and Boston Harbor, Fallon said.

``Glass is becoming a prominent design element in most of the buildings," Fallon said, sometimes accented with stone or precast masonry. In one office building, ``a major feature is a bay-style element that captures city views," he said.

``These are real projects, not the phantom projects we've heard about in the past," Mayor Thomas M. Menino said yesterday. ``You've got to applaud Joe for moving forward in very difficult times, when people are pulling back because of construction costs."

Fallon hired architects from California and New York as well as Boston to design the first phase of the 2.9-million-square-foot, nine-block neighborhood, which is expected to evolve over a decade.

First to be built are a combined luxury hotel and residential building, close to the nearly completed Institute of Contemporary Art and along Northern Avenue. It is scheduled to go into construction next year.

That will be followed, depending on the status of the (ascending) office and (declining) residential markets, by another residential building and two 490,000-square-foot office buildings. Those four will complete the Northern Avenue sweep of Fan Pier and fill in the block between Anthony's Pier 4 and the Moakley federal courthouse.

The second residential building is tentatively planned for construction in 2008. Start dates for the two office buildings depend largely on the response from businesses in need of large amounts of space starting in about 2009.

Fallon has begun to solicit interest in the office space from businesses. CB Richard Ellis/New England is the leasing agent for Fan Pier.

These first four buildings include the tallest planned for the entire site -- a 234-foot office building next to the courthouse -- and one of the three lowest, a 175-foot residential building.

That residential building and the combined hotel and condominium building that will start next year, near Anthony's Pier 4, were designed by Hill Glazier Architects of Santa Barbara, Calif. The tallest office building is the work of Brennan Beer Gorman Architects LLP of New York; the other office tower is designed by Elkus|Manfredi Architects Ltd., of Boston.

Four more buildings -- residential, retail space, and probably some office floors -- will follow, closer to the water and alongside a new six-acre marina called Fan Pier Cove.

Fallon also said he is planning to build the significant amount of expensive public and civic space agreed to by the property's previous owners, the Pritzker family of Chicago, when they won city and state permits. Those include the marina, a block-sized public park, an extensive portion of the Harborwalk, a pier park leading to the harbor's waters, and space reserved for use by the nonprofit organizations Island Alliance, New England Aquarium, and Boston Children's Museum.

Vivien Li, executive director of the Boston Harbor Association, hailed those plans. ``Many thought he would try to change the environmental commitments," she said. ``That's pretty extraordinary for a developer."

Fallon has been consistent in the architectural style he wants to bring to the new South Boston Waterfront. Neither the Park Lane nor the nearby Westin, which he codeveloped, for example, features any of Boston's traditional red brick. ``I don't know that we will, either," said Fallon, showing a computerized rendering of an office building at Fan Pier with mirrored glass. ``This is what we're going with."

Thomas C. Palmer Jr. can be reached at
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