As the BRA prepares a request for proposals on the site, some residents are pushing for a technology ‘incubator.’
Kristi Ceccarossi,Patch Staff
Posted Thu, Mar 24, 2011 at 3:58 pm ET|Updated Thu, Mar 24, 2011 at 10:3
In just a few weeks, the Boston Redevelopment Authority will invite developers to submit plans and ideas for Pier 5, arguably the last piece of prime real estate left in the Navy Yard.
There wasn’t a single representative from the BRA at a local meeting on Wednesday night about the future of pier, but there were dozens of residents who have questions, concerns and ideas for what the BRA should do with the property.
Proposals included a public park, a museum and a public-private partnership to develop the site like tourist destinations in New York City, Miami or San Francisco.
One proposal, which has the unanimous support of the Charlestown Waterfront Coalition’s steering committee, would put an “innovation center” on the pier. Picture an 80,000 square foot, LEED certified building where entrepreneurs, venture capitalist and businesses big and small are encouraged to work together in a sort of technology “incubator.”
The BRA’s request for proposals on Pier 5 will be broad: developers can pitch a range of ideas –- a condo high rise, a mixed-use building, or even a park. The only fixed criteria is that a developer can put down an initial deposit of $10,000, demonstrate the skills and experience to bring a project to fruition and prove that it’s financially viable.
It will be up to the BRA, ultimately, to determine the future of Pier 5, but it’s important to neighborhood leaders that the interests of Charlestown are reflected in their choice. That’s why the Development Committee of the Charlestown Neighborhood Council organized Wednesday’s meeting. They had no trouble filling a conference room at the Constitution Inn YMCA.
“It should be preserved as a permanent resource for Boston and the community,” said Chris Nicodemus, who offered a presentation on the history of the pier. “Boston shouldn’t squander this opportunity.”
There was a general consensus among the group on this point, but Neighborhood Council President Tom Cunha made it clear that the development of this pier is potentially a major source of revenue for the BRA — and any developer wins the project.
“Every major player in the Boston development scene is going to bid on this thing,” he told the crowd. “It’s a very advantageous property. … and they know about this.”
Developing the pier
Pier 5 is situated between to Courageous Sailing on Pier 4 and Tavern on the Water, on Pier 6. The site’s been vacant for the last 35 years and fenced off for the last five years, according to a presentation by Edward Cardinali.
It’s well known that the pier itself is in a state of disrepair. Before anything could be built on the site, developers will have to invest in the infrastructure. All proposals to the BRA will likely include that cost. Neighborhood Council members didn’t know the exact dollar amount, but there were quotes discussed on Wednesday night that started at $15 million – just to prepare the site.
For the last 20 years, the site has been tied up in development agreement between the BRA and Martin Oliner of LDA Acquisition, which would have put 59 residential units in a 170,000 square-foot building on the pier. But a shortage of funds from Oliner recently ended the agreement.
A proposal along similar lines seems like the most viable option for the site, considering the costs of repairing the pier and the BRA’s incentives – or so comments at Wednesday’s meeting indicated. The revenue for the BRA would be the highest with a condo development: the BRA gets 2 percent on every condo sale in the Navy Yard.
Supporting a proposal
R. Gregg Nourjian, a board member at Courageous Sailing, pitched the idea of an innovation center to the crowd at Wednesday’s meeting.
“This could be a landmark facility from a physical and experiential standpoint,” Nourjian said, taking up a relatively small portion of the pier. “We would lead people with a hands-on approach to building companies.”
Nourjian said he had innovative ideas for funding the project, which could include grant money, private investments and some public support.
This proposal has support from the Waterfront Coalition, a 100-member group that advocates for the interests of the Navy Yard. Ivey St. John asked the Neighborhood Council, on behalf of the coalition, to endorse Nourjian’s plan and encourage the BRA to do so as well.
“This is one concept,” Cunha, of the Neighborhood Council, cautioned the group. “When the RFP goes out, there will be between 8 to 15 major ideas. … If I lived in the Navy Yard, I’d want to see every single plan offered.”
The BRA will put out the call for proposals sometime within the next few weeks, according to Mark Rosenshein, who leads the Development Committee of the Neighborhood Council. There will be a 60-day window for developers to respond – a deadline that is typically extended by the BRA.
When all proposals are submitted, Rosenshein said the BRA has assured him Charlestown residents will get to see all of the projects under consideration.