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Old 05-25-2006, 05:55 AM   #1
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Proposed Aquarium Parking Garage Redevelopment | Waterfront | Downtown

Chiofaro plans high-rise housing on Greenway
Developer aims to use site of parking garage

By Steve Bailey, Globe Staff | May 25, 2006


With Boston's office market recovering and developers beginning to jockey for position, International Place builder Donald Chiofaro is readying plans for a huge new tower across the Rose Kennedy Greenway from the twin office towers he built in the city's last great building boom more than a decade ago.

Chiofaro, one of Boston's best-known developers, won't comment on his plans, which are preliminary. But two City Hall sources said yesterday that Chiofaro is negotiating an option to buy the parking garage across from the New England Aquarium and wants to build a tower on the site that would largely be residential and rival in scale the nearby 400-foot-high Harbor Towers.

The 1,380-space garage is owned by Urban Growth Property Trust, which bought it six years ago from Equity Office Properties as part of a $180 million transaction that included parking garages in five cities. Urban Growth could not be reached for comment.

Chiofaro is scheduled to present his initial ideas for the site today to the Boston Redevelopment Authority. A BRA spokeswoman declined to comment, but a city official said the agency would be open to Chiofaro's plans to demolish the garage -- considered an eyesore on the new Greenway -- and build a tower with underground parking.

Chiofaro's proposal comes at a time of renewed interest in tall buildings in Boston.

In February, Mayor Thomas M. Menino proposed building a 1,000-foot tower on the site of a city-owned garage in Winthrop Square.

Among other projects in the pipeline: Equity Office's proposed 31-floor tower at Russia Wharf on the Greenway and Boston developer Joseph Fallon's plans for a smaller office building on Fan Pier. And Hines Interests LP of Houston continues to push its long-stalled tower over South Station, while Delaware North Cos. has zoning in place for two 40-story towers at North Station.

The activity has been fueled by declining vacancy rates and rising office rents, particularly in the downtown business district. Commercial real estate broker Grubb & Ellis reports that office vacancies in the central business district fell to 11.5 percent in the first quarter, dipping below 12 percent for the first time in four years. Rents in the top floors of some towers in the Back Bay are being quoted a $60 a square foot, Grubb & Ellis said.

Chiofaro, a model for Tom Wolfe's high-living, highly extended real estate mogul in the novel, ``A Man in Full," has proven himself a survivor in Boston's real estate world. Two years ago, he used bankruptcy protection to block New York-based Tishman Speyer Properties from seizing control of International Place. Proclaiming Tishman and his associates ``a gang of pirates," Chiofaro brought in a new partner, Prudential Real Estate Investors. While he significantly reduced his own stake, and Tishman walked away with an estimated $40 million as a consolation prize, Chiofaro was able to maintain his position atop his beloved International Place.

At best, the tenacious Chiofaro has a mixed relationship with city officials. Currently, he is seeking a tax abatement that would cut International Place's $17.6 million property taxes by $3.75 million for fiscal year 2005. City officials, sensitive to rising property taxes for homeowners, are staunchly opposed.

``They believe they can raise $734 million in capital for the property, and then claim it's only worth $424 million for property-tax purposes," said city assessor Ronald Rakow. ``We disagree."

Chiofaro's partner, Ted Oatis, said they have ``a pending tax-abatement case with the city assessor. It is a commercial disagreement and is in process. We have a fiduciary duty to our tenants and investor partners, and we are relying upon expert advisers. Our only goal is a fair and reasonable result."
 
Old 05-25-2006, 05:57 AM   #2
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Old 05-25-2006, 05:58 AM   #3
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Old 05-25-2006, 09:47 AM   #4
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This would be great if it happened but I'm thinking Vivian Li (sp?) is going to have a hissy fit.
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Old 05-25-2006, 10:30 AM   #5
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This is great news. That gawddawful garage has got to go.
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Old 05-25-2006, 10:36 AM   #6
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Yes!!!!!!!!!!1111
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Old 05-25-2006, 11:00 AM   #7
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Finally! That garage drives me nuts, I always hoped they'd remove it and put something...anything there. Hopefully this goes through, plus it's a nice height. Maybe they'll do a decent design. If it looks like the Harbor Towers I'll be pissed.
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Old 05-25-2006, 03:58 PM   #8
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This is terrific! Notice how a lot of the vacant lots and or ugly parking garages now have development proposals - Winthrop Square, Province St, The Clarendon, Several Chinatown developments, and now the Aquarium parking garage. Next all we need is the Gov't Center garage to come down. Developable land is becoming more and more scarce downtown, a good and healthy sign to me.
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Old 05-25-2006, 09:27 PM   #9
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I'm pretty sure that in the end, this will become an "un-tower" given the pressures of people afraid of height and of shadowing the Greenway.

I hope Chiofaro is able to push something through (and that the term "huge" will allow him to come down to a profitable "big" as he works through the process).

With its frontage on the Greenway on one side and the Harbor on the other side, there is absolutely no reason for this to be a multi-story parking garage.

For the Gov't Center garage, though, I'm afraid we'll have to wait longer (the best I can hope for is the idea presented in the old forum of chopping it in half (the portion which overhangs Congress St.).
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Old 05-25-2006, 10:05 PM   #10
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Well considering that he wants to build something that rivals the Harbor Towers and that the attitude towards skyscrapers seems to have change slightly to a more favorable one, this might actually be a pretty tall tower.
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Old 05-26-2006, 06:57 AM   #11
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from today's globe..

Chiofaro thinks big as Greenway project would rival the Pru
By Steve Bailey and Chris Reidy, Globe Staff | May 26, 2006

Don Chiofaro, the man who built giant International Place, does not think small. And he is not thinking small as he eyes an ambitious new development on the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway


According to Chiofaro and City Hall officials briefed on his plans, the huge mixed-use project would total about 1.2 million square feet -- the equivalent of the Prudential Tower itself. It would include a 175-room hotel, 125 condos, 800,000 square feet of office space, and significant retail space. The early concept is for two buildings, including a 475-foot tower -- about 75 feet higher than the neighboring Harbor Towers. Ted Oatis, Chiofaro's partner, said the project would open a pedestrian corridor, creating a view to the harbor.

Projected cost: $600 million to $800 million.

City Hall officials, who met with Chiofaro for the first time yesterday, called the project ``very preliminary." But they and Chiofaro confirmed that the developer has secured an option to buy the parking garage just in front of the New England Aquarium, and plans to demolish the garage and replace it with 1,400 underground spaces. One official estimated it would take two to three years to get the project through the permitting process. The site is about 1.3 acres in all, bounded by Milk Street, East India Row, and Atlantic Avenue.

``This is the most exciting piece of real estate in the city of Boston," Chiofaro said yesterday after meeting with the Boston Redevelopment Authority.

The project, reported in The Boston Globe yesterday, would mark a remarkable comeback for Chiofaro. Two years ago, Chiofaro was in danger of losing control of International Place to New York-based Tishman Speyer Properties. In response, Chiofaro took International Place into bankruptcy, and brought in Prudential Real Estate Investors to refinance the project. Tishman Speyer walked away with about $40 million in profit, Chiofaro's ownership was reduced, but he retained his position in International Place.

Prudential has had very preliminary talks with Chiofaro about participating in the new project, but is far from a deal, the firm said. ``Don Chiofaro has been a great partner in the International Place deal," said spokeswoman Theresa Miller. ``As with all our partners, we are eager to explore an opportunity that has potential for benefiting our investors. This project could be one of them."

Since he completed the second tower of International Place in 1993, Chiofaro has tried to do other large projects in the city and failed. Chiofaro won and then lost the development rights to build what later became the 36-story headquarters for State Street Corp. on the edge of Chinatown. He later sued the minority investors who were his partner. He also had and lost the rights to develop the South Boston Waterfront site that became Manulife Financial's US headquarters.

Chiofaro is known to have a cool relationship with Mayor Thomas M. Menino, whose support is critical for any developer. Yesterday Menino said housing affordability and parking are of particular concern to him.

``Whatever goes there has to be sensitive to the people of Harbor Towers and the aquarium. Both have gone through a lot in the last 12 years," Menino said, referring to the Big Dig reconstruction. The BRA declined to comment.

Early reaction to the Chiofaro proposal was cautious. Until more details are public, the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway Conservancy plans to withhold comment, said Nancy Brennan , the conservancy's executive director. The conservancy is a private nonprofit gradually assuming responsibility for maintaining the new parks.

In general, the conservancy is inclined to look favorably upon development that would bring new life to neighborhoods along the Greenway, she said. ``Residences and offices that bring more families and people who will use the Greenway's parks and amenities would be a great thing for the city and would strengthen the neighborhood," Brennan said.
Joseph T. Baerlein , co chairman of the Harbor Towers Condominium Trust , noted that Harbor Towers residents take up about 400 parking spaces in the garage that Chiofaro wants to redevelop under leases that won't expire until 2018 and 2019. The heating and cooling systems for Harbor Towers also are located in the garage, he said.

Baerlein expects that Chiofaro's project would include underground parking that would replace what would be lost from the garage. Concerns about Harbor Towers parking and its heating and cooling systems are not ``obstacles that can't be overcome," he said. ``It's prudent and wise to have an open mind about this" proposal, said Baerlein. Of the garage, he said, ``We wouldn't exactly be losing a crown jewel here."

Steve Bailey can be reached at bailey@globe.com; Chris Reidy at reidy@globe.com.
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Old 05-26-2006, 07:03 AM   #12
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Picture of the garage?

I'm unfamiliar (although I bet I'll know once I see it)
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Old 05-26-2006, 11:01 AM   #13
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From yesterday:

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Old 05-26-2006, 12:27 PM   #14
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Are those two taller buildings in the background the Harbor Towers? Those look like decently tall buildings, so taller than that would be great, although that would have been interesting if they would've proposed a 1000-footer or something.
The garage sure won't be missed. The proposed underground parking is essentially the same size (1400 proposed vs 1380 current). Of course, I'd prefer seeing 0 parking spaces, but I understand that's not currently realistic, and this will at least increase the people to parking spaces ratio, or more importantly, significantly increase the number of people who might own cars and parking spaces but probably aren't using them very often. So I like this proposal, even if I've heard "This is the most exciting piece of real estate in the city of Boston" before (Winthrop Square, Waterfront).
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Old 05-26-2006, 02:06 PM   #15
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If Chiofaro can pull this off, his next project should be fixing Iraq. It's on the water, so Vivian Lee is going to sink her teeth in; it's on the Greenway, so the random cast of charachters that calls the Greenway shots will throw their weight around; it would definitely soar, and we know how that goes over; but worst of all, it would block some views and screw up the parking situation for Harbor Tower residents. Those people are well versed in raising stink. I can hardly imagine a more challenging project to get off the ground.
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Old 05-26-2006, 03:57 PM   #16
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It said 2 to 3 years for the permit process (which is a clusterfuck) add another 5 for the bullshit that Chiofaro is going to deal with from opposition to the project (see Chumbolly's post).

Looking at it objectively, I can understand their concern with the parking situation to an extent. Their spaces will continue over into the new 1,400 space underground spots, but where will they park in the mean time when/if the original garage is torn down?

Also I would have really liked a 600-800 footer here because this is one of the really, really good spots on the waterfront for a project of that size.

I see this project being proposed as a pretty decent sized building 500'+? but if it gets built at all, it won't be any where near that. Another building similiar to the size of the Harbor Towers would be great, but I'm not the biggest fan of the design of those Towers (as some of you know.) Practical? Sure. Asthetically Pleasing? Hardly. I hope this project does what those two buildings don't, add to the waterfront skyline.
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Old 05-26-2006, 05:37 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BostonSkyGuy
Another building similiar to the size of the Harbor Towers would be great, but I'm not the biggest fan of the design of those Towers (as some of you know.) Practical? Sure. Asthetically Pleasing? Hardly. I hope this project does what those two buildings don't, add to the waterfront skyline.
The Harbor Towers are actually a disaster from the point of practicality. The workmanship was horrible (they started shedding chunks of concrete within 15 years of being built) and the infrastructure is completely inadequate. Owners aren't allowed to install clothes washers or dryers because it would overwhelm the systems, and the electrical wiring supposedly can't handle the demands of some home theater systems. I know people that own million and a half dollar condos in there, and they don't have a washer in their unit. Crazy. I was thinking that the one ace Chiofaro may have up his sleeve is he could offer to upgrade the mechanical systems that are located in the garage in order to win the support of HT residents.
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Old 05-26-2006, 05:56 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chumbolly
I know people that own million and a half dollar condos in there, and they don't have a washer in their unit.
Maybe if you can afford a $1.5M condo, then you can afford laundry service? Still, the situation is pretty remarkable. I guess housing downtown is just that in-demand?
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Old 05-26-2006, 06:22 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chumbolly
The Harbor Towers are actually a disaster from the point of practicality. The workmanship was horrible (they started shedding chunks of concrete within 15 years of being built) and the infrastructure is completely inadequate. Owners aren't allowed to install clothes washers or dryers because it would overwhelm the systems, and the electrical wiring supposedly can't handle the demands of some home theater systems. I know people that own million and a half dollar condos in there, and they don't have a washer in their unit. Crazy. I was thinking that the one ace Chiofaro may have up his sleeve is he could offer to upgrade the mechanical systems that are located in the garage in order to win the support of HT residents.
I had no idea this was going on. Just another reason to hate the Harbor Towers for me I guess. I don't know, I know a lot of people who like them and I just don't see it. For such a great spot I feel like they could have come up with a much better design. I would have preferred glass because it would mix up the waterfront a bit. I'm just shocked that all that is going on, it's pretty disturbing.
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Old 05-28-2006, 09:07 AM   #20
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I have a question, how can a 475ft tower rival the Prudential?
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