Six developers responded to the Boston Redevelopment Authority’s request for proposals for the City-owned Winthrop Square Parking Garage: Accordia Partners, Lendlease, Millenium Partners, Trans National Properties, HYM Investment Group and Trinity Financial. According to The Boston Business Journal, the 435-space garage closed in 2013 because of structural issues. The BRA’s RFP notes that the garage is four stories and sits on just over an acre of land. The agency also expected there to be a public space component at the ground and on some upper floors, an iconic structure up to 725 feet high and active uses on the ground floor.
Accordia proposed this building, with its roof gardens and 8 Spruce Street-esque undulations. It’s perhaps the most architecturally interesting of the proposals, which isn’t saying much. Their building will be from 770,000 to 800,000 square feet and combine hotel and residential uses. They proposed 280 rooms in the hotel and 185 condos. At the bottom it will have just 2,600 square feet of retail and 34,000 square feet of civic space. In total the tower would be 57 floors. Accordia’s proposal, however, had poor street-interaction and repeated the myth about Boston’s streets being cow-paths. They also had 385 parking spaces.
Lendlease’s proposal, which looks like one of those gourmet salamis that come wrapped in string, was perhaps the best. Parking was an afterthought in the proposal, which is a 61-story office and residential building. It would have 200,000 square feet of office and incubator space on ten floors and then 315 rental apartments on 25 floors and 221 condos on 26 stories.
“Success will combine the intimacy, connectivity and charm of the small scale urban fabric [of Winthrop Square] with the power and elegance of iconic modern versatility,” their proposal read. It’s not just a design philosophy, it’s sales pitch.
With over 12,600 square feet of retail space, it will certainly be more active than Accordia’s building. Their proposed civic uses include an experimental theater and cultural pavillion. From the plans it looks like they want to pedestrianize part of Devonshire Street and they’ve promised to make a large donation to create affordable housintg in Chinatown.
Elevations do show three floors of underground parking, but nowhere in the proposal is a number of spaces suggested. The only thing is the statement that “Available parking will be limited.” The developers have also promised to provide free Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority passes to residents for a year.
Millenium Partners had the best public space proposal, but otherwise they proposed the same building they’ve built several times before already. That may save money on the design, but it’s not really inconic if it’s been repeated five times in a half-mile radius.
Their tower would be 65 stories with 12,750 square feet of public space on the ground floor in the best of their proposal: the Great Hall. With glass vaulting and arches, inspired by Bates Hall in the Boston Public Library and the Galleria Vittorio Emanuelle, the hall would help provide a route for people from Devonshire Street to Federal Street.
The Millenium proposal includes 14 stories of office space, a seven-floor office solaria and 300 apartments on 36 levels. It would also have 300 parking spaces.
HYM’s proposal, without a doubt, was the absolute worst. One doesn’t usually find Franciscans associated with lots of pollution and luxury condominimums, but HYM has managed it. On Arch Street, on the other side of Otis Street, is the Shrine of Saint Anthony, which is under the Franciscans of the Holy Name Province. The friars have a church with regular Masses and lots of Confession time, as well as operating various ministries serving the poor, like a soup kitchen and food pantry. It’s also their home.
They agreed to work with HYM on the Winthrop Square proposal and will get a new, 11-story friary and freestanding church on the site of the garage while their current building will be torn down for the “iconic tower.” Said tower will be 60 stories with 239 condos, 285 apartments and 50 co-living residences, which is a kind of dormitory arrangement. The tower will also have 300 parkintg spaces.
In addition to the friary and church, a 40,000 square foot school will be built for Boston Public Schools and a 10,000 square foot theater. Winthrop Square will be remade into a plaza.
There are really two issues with the proposal. One is that the church is horrifically ugly, departing completely from taste and the artistic heritage of Western Christianity. It looks like the ventilation shafts the Massachusetts Department of Transportation built over the capped highways.
Even worse is that the plaza will have parking under it. A lot of parking. An additional 500 underground spaces are proposed, bring the total proposed to an unbelievable 800. And they still claim their proposal is environmentally friendly and sustainable.
Trans National went with a twin tower design, which they will combine with their existing property at 133 Federal St for 1.7 million square feet. They would have 30,000 square feet of ground tail retail, up to one million square feet of hotel or residential space and up to 600 parking spaces.
Compared to the others, Trinity Financial’s proposal was architecturally refined. Their 60 story tower would have a 231 room hotel and 645 residences, 140 of which would be designed to be affordable to people in the middle of the income spectrum. There would be 420 parking spaces.
While the architecture proposed in these projects leaves much to be desired — Boston developers don’t seem to know what stone is — the biggest issue with all of these is parking. The BRA’s RFP said “It is possible to propose an essentially zeroparking building in this location. There is no minimum parking requirement for the Site.”
Not only is the site a short walk from all downtown MBTA stations, but building excessive parking will just result in traffic. In the three years since the 435 space garage closed, Downtown Boston has not descended into anarchy.
Excessive parking is not needed.