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Preservationists: Proposed expansion of the Hard Rock Cafe garage is bad and the developer should feel bad

Archiect's rendering of proposed Dock Square building

Architect's rendering of what visitors to Faneuil Hall could one day see.

In a strongly worded letter, the Boston Preservation Alliance last week urged the BPDA to kill a developer's plans to rebuild the Hard Rock Cafe garage next to Faneuil Hall Marketplace into what the alliance says would be a monument to god-awfulness.

Fortis Property Group of Brooklyn has proposed adding ten floors of residences on top of the existing seven-story Dock Square garage and sheathing the whole thing in the sort of giant glass panels that are all the rage in luxury construction these days.

The alliance says if the BPDA spends more than 10 seconds seriously contemplating this idea before squashing it like a bug, it should be ashamed of itself:

[W]hen the most recent renderings were shown to our Board of Directors there was a collective gasp and unanimous shaking of heads, even from many architects highly active in new construction in the city. It's inconceivable how such an egregious affront to the central and character-defining historic assets of this city could even be considered by the BPDA.

The alliance says, if anything, the BPDA should require the owner to commit to tearing down the entire garage and coming up with some less ravaging to the historic nature of the buildings and views around it:

We are not advocating to protect a 1970s parking garage. No one particularly likes the garage, but it is relatively innocuous in its historic context - certainly not contributing to the urban environment but its negative aspects are relatively contained. And down the road, if many predictions hold true and parking demands are less, it can go away and be replaced with something fitting in scale and massing for its historic environment. This proposal, on the other hand, expands a blemish to an outright neighborhood-wide plague, visible from throughout one of the most touristed and photographed areas of the city. It mars iconic views to and from Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market, the North End, the Custom House Tower, the Greenway, and looms over the highly preserved Blackstone Block. And for what gain? What is the public benefit? The debatable, minor enhancements this may make to the public realm over the existing garage are no match for the negative attributes of the proposal. Additionally, by placing high end housing atop the garage and encasing the garage in screens and new glass, the proponent would effectively remove an opportunity to do something wonderful in this space when the garage reaches the end of its lifespan. We will entomb effectively forever the volume of that garage plus a conspicuous addition – new and old both grossly inappropriate for this location.

At a time when the City of Boston has claimed a commendable new vision for a future that reduces carbon emissions by encouraging walking, bicycling, and mass transit, this proposal is diametrically opposed to the City's broader messaging. Rejecting this proposal is the right thing to do for the Boston's history and environment. If there is insistence of new construction at this location, this garage should be razed, like others around the city, and a new building designed in deference to this historic context, perhaps with parking below. The short-sighted need for uninterrupted parking today should not drive a poor solution Boston will live with for a century, particularly when such a strategy violates the City's own goals of carbon-neutrality and “contextually sensitive development… to affirm each neighborhood's distinct identity”, as stated in the Imagine Boston 2030 document.

But that would be too expensive for the developer? The alliance says it's not the city's job to ensure profits for developers at the expense of the greater good:

The argument that a project of such out-of-place scale and massing is the only proposal that makes economic sense is a false construct that is used to justify far too many projects that negatively impact the unique aspects of the city. What that often really means is that a project of this scale is necessary to support an erroneous assumption by a purchaser of what could be constructed. However it isn't the city's role to facilitate what may have been a poor business decision. It is not the city's responsibility to rectify what may be a financial loss predicated on approval before such approval was given, especially at the expense of some of the city's most valuable historic resources.

Architect's rendering of the view from the street:

Street view of proposed Dock Square building

Developer's presentation to the Boston Civic Design Commission (from which the above renderings come, 48M PDF).
More details (11.6M PDF).
More info on Boston Preservation Alliance position.

Aerial view of proposed Dock Square building

Via Hannah Spicher.

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Comments

What the hell is that monstrosity?

For once, I agree with the opposing party. That building looks hideous there.

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Send the architects down to the Mexican border and build this monstrosity. It makes Boston City Hall look good.

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At least there are choices

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That letter is full of histrionics. But if it gets us to where the developer agrees to knock the entire garage down instead of keeping it, then so be it.

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The building looks like it has fangs.

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Now I can't unsee that.

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The first and last photo both remind me of Darth Vader standing over my shoulder. It's not a terribly ugly building, per se. But in that location, it's totally out of proportion.

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That's funny, my first reaction was it looks a bit like an AT-AT looming behind Faneuil Hall.

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This building really needs mechanical legs to look complete.

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building called The Macallen in the Lower End of Southie opposite the Broadway T stop looks like a Jawa sandcrawler.

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sheathing the whole thing in the sort of giant glass panels that are all the rage in luxury construction these days.

Yeah. Like the Hancock building. And just about every other downtown building around the Western world over the last few decades.

[W]hen the most recent renderings were shown to our Board of Directors there was a collective gasp and unanimous shaking of heads,

Were the collectives pearls clutched?

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I mean, the BPA up and admits that this has nothing to do with preservation, and they overlook the good that will come with the new proposal (new housing.)

Whether or not this is the nicest looking proposal is debatable, and certainly citizens have the right to weigh in on proposals, but at the end of the day the developer is not doing a bad thing but sticking housing on top of the garage.

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Sure, Boston needs housing, but it's not the sole concern. This is downtown in a fairly historic area. Building something which is visually appealing has as much merit as luxury housing in the spot.

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City Hall, Tall buildings on State Street and Congress St. A six-lane highway, plus connections to an underground eight lane highway.

That ship sailed a long time ago.

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We wouldn’t have the greenway.

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Multi-lane high speed divided highway with no bike lanes, with a soul patch of grass?

Yeah. Okay. "Greenway"

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it's not high speed.

and there's a bike lane.

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This is right between two of the most important and visited historic sites in Boston: Quincy Market and the Blackstone Block. Bad decisions in the past are no reason to double down. This is incredibly bad and would be easy to make better but we are living under the build baby build Mayor. I don't think anyone but the developer is going to look back at this as a good thig.

OTH, make it a little shorter and it would be okay. The parking should go away or be redesigned for the 21st century but that's a cash printing machine and no one is going to voluntarily give it up.

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Is it? It's a bunch of Phantom Gourmet type restaurants surrounded by various buskers, panpipe enthusiasts and jugglers. It's fine but it's for tourists. I'd argue there are many, many more historic and historic parts of town such as (and not limited to) Trinity Church, the Old South Meeting House, USS Constitution, etc...

Quincy Market is exactly the place I went to several times as a kid, not living in Boston, and have been to on purpose maybe twice since I moved here 20 years ago.

edited because buskers not baskets

Further edit - really, the whole Durgin Park thing is a perfect microcosm of Quincy Market. An old 'institution' which appeals to some vague nostalgia and caters to out of town tourists, owned by a large entertainment/dining conglomerate from out of town. It has some cultural presence but in the end is kind of meaningless. It's like something that would be promoted by the Dayton Tourism board or some other garbage town where there isn't any of real importance or historical value, a place unlike Boston.

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The only difference between Faneuil Hall and the Fremont Street Experience is that the folks out in Vegas had the presence of mind to cover it up with a sunroof and a laser show. At some point we're going to have to collectively conclude that our poor man's Times Square in its current form has little to offer in terms of history or local culture.

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Looks like all the other proposals in the last decade. Build high, big and ugly.

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Most disappointing here is that we have so many opportunities to build tall, and when given such an opportunity, we end up with this.

The building should be 40 stories taller. I think we can do without a view of... the clouds from a tourist attraction where the action is eye-level.

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I think you would have to talk to the FAA about that.

Although that's less absurd than putting all the current levels of parking underground in that location.

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According to the Logan airspace map, the max height is somewhere between 600 and 700 feet, so 40 stories taller is doable.

http://www.massport.com/logan-airport/about-logan/logan-airspace-map/

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Now we can move on to round two and see what the developer wanted from the beginning.

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there be a building in my view of buildings!

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First thing I noticed is lack of people in the photo!

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Where are those groups who play small snips of music at 940dB while people living in heaven knows what circumstances do tumbling tricks on the hard rocks, and then pass the hat?

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Even Menino couldn't make them go away.

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Photo needs more stumbling drunks.

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I think the view of Trinity Church and the Hancock together is pretty cool.

Like this little gem, which I'm sure caused plenty of pearl clutching in 1964-65...

https://www.alamy.com/stock-photo-trinity-church-and-the-john-hancock-bu...

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Strongly disagree. Trinity Church is probably the most beautiful building in Boston (outside, not the interior), and the Hancock is one of the few modern buildings in Boston that I really like. But the Hancock developers had a goddamn nerve putting it right up against the church that way, reflecting the church in the glass tower. They were leaching off the older building's beauty, and didn't give a damn that they were thus diminishing its impact.

The church's visual effect must have been much more powerful in the old days, when it had a little breathing room around it. The Hancock should have been built along the waterfront somewhere, not there.

And repeating that tired old trope about "pearl clutching" doesn't add weight to anybody's argument about anything, just shows a lack of originality if you can't even invent your own insults.

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- There's a place for sleek modernist buildings, and this isn't it.

- If you think this design is on par with the Hancock Tower, I'm sure glad you're not a decision-maker at the BPDA.

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What could possibly make Faneuil Hall and the glorified food court that it truly is any more embarrassing? I say build it.

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of the equally hideous Sephora building.

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Any change to that eye-sore of a garage can only be considered a good thing. Last time I checked the garage is not a historic landmark. People have to understand that in cities, buildings get built next to other buildings. I always got a kick out of seeing the tiny Old State House surrounded by modern high-rises. The contrast between old and new building materials is striking. How is this any different? All buildings around Quincy Market can't all be made of red brick. If red brick is so great, bring back the old subway entrances to the Government Center T stop.

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Bottom line is that many will complain but in the end it will get built just like what is happening in the seaport....why? It’s because of the money that’s involved. The unions are all over this and many other projects in Boston. They are all connected to the Mayor. It’s going to be his legacy and he will be in office for a long time because he’s keeping the unions employed. No one cares about how it will negatively affect the historical aesthetics of Boston.....no one! Everyone is in it for the money and that’s the bottom line!! The mayor should be focused on the eyesore that Quincy Market has become! The NYC firm in charge doesn’t care about its tenants. They charge high rents and in return have slowly let the marketplace deteriorate!! Hey Marty WAKE UP and SMELL THE COFFEE!! Part of your legacy should be standing behind the tenants at the marketplace who are being treated like second class citizens with no respect. They are mistreated by management and it’s about time you stepped in and stood up to the NYC firm. The tenants are all ready to go to the press about what is REALLY happening under your nose!! FIX IT NOW!!! Your cousin is in over his head!! The “management” employees are disrespectful and extremely unprofessional!! Mayor Menino would have NEVER allowed the DEPLORABLE behavior that management is exhibiting against the tenants!! NEVER!!

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FYI, the fast lane to gentrification is designating an area 'historic.' Making owners comply with expensive renovation requirements to maintain that 'historic look' actually forces lower income owners to sell because they can no longer afford the upkeep.

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Can we stop with calling things we just don't like 'gentrification?" That word is being overused by people to its detriment. It's a real thing and happening in some neighborhoods, but this isn't it. It's a friggin parking garage in the heart of downtown. Maybe the design sucks, fine, but that's far from gentrification.

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Sure, blame the guys who make 60K a year and who have no say what so ever over what does or doesn't get approved to be built. Ever heard of the prevailing wage?

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Last time I checked the garage is not a historic landmark.

So tear it the eff down and put up a new building, instead of trying to graft this frankencondo onto the top of it.

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The real thing can’t possibly look worse than the artist rendering in the top image.

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Glass is rarely that shade of light blue during the day. Most of the time it appears as a solid dark blue or black unless really nice glass is used, and most developers cheap out on that kind of thing. Basically picture the same, but much darker and more hulking. At least here it kinda blends in with the sky.

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I gotta admit, I don't mind the building (besides the fangs).

Secondly, no comments on the guy in the members only jacket in the first photo and his bizzaro twin stalking him from afar?

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I was thinking I'd like to offer to have coffee with that poor lonely soul. Hadn't noticed he was under surveillance.

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Here's where they meet up later:

IMAGE(https://www.artssspot.com/barcelona/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/Piazza-Italia-con-fontana-1968_es_ES.png)

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the argument that somehow a tall or glass development in this area diminishes the historical character of quincy market is absurd. if you visit an actual historical city like london, i think you'll find new development next to old can complement it far better than 20th century urban renewal eyesores, which abound in quincy market's "historical context." i do agree however that incorporating the garage is a mistake. this response by the BPA is also a little over the top rhetorically

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BPA's language does seem a bit over the top given that this horrendous shit has been going on for years now and no one seems to give a shit. A line in the sand should be drawn and maybe this is the place to do it? I dunno. But I do know this. This is just another hideous piece of rancid turd that is justified again and again by what that last BPA quote references. "It's the only way we can make these numbers work." If I have to hear that from another developer I will slit their throats with a dull rusty shiv, take their wallet and say, "hey sorry guy, but that's the only way I can make my numbers work." Fuck you. Everybody has different ideas as to what a good-looking building should look like - no accounting for taste - but I've never met anyone that thought this stuff was beautiful. They might not be turned off by it, or maybe they can ignore it, but is there anyone who actually says "that's a mighty fine piece of architecture you got there Franky" when they look at these cheap-ass abortions.

#crapitechture

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the argument that somehow a tall or glass development in this area diminishes the historical character of quincy market is absurd.

OK, but that's not the argument being made here.

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Just because some of these buildings have been here a long time doesnt mean they should get to last for all eternity or drive the direction that local development takes.

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Who would want to live (and pay top dollar) next to Fanueil Hall Marketplace? Tourists by day, bar hopping locals by night. Boston and surrounding cities and towns have so many cooler places to live if you have the $.

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Exact same arguments have been made repeatedly before:

Who would want to live right next to the Southeast Expressway? And yet, the Ink Block seems to be doing pretty well.

Who would want to live in the Combat Zone/Downtown Crossing? And yet, hundreds of apartments and condos prove otherwise.

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I agree with you in theory, but the ink block has 12 available apartments listed out of a 26 unit building, soooooo.....

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I don't know if they're finished building the whole thing out, but we're talking about a project with close to 500 units, so is that one of the newer buildings just coming online?

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Build a new old city hall of granite, swap locations , churn the numbers, Get rid of current concrete monstrosity, .

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Irrelevant because it had nothing to do with this particular discussion. Sorry, if you're angry about somebody in Discussion A, don't start following the person over to Discussion B to try to make some sort of point.

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