Howard Hughes Corporation, the developer of the Seaport District, received a “few” pieces of good news this week.
The Landmarks Preservation Commission approved plans for a new condo tower at 250 Water St. – which is now a one-acre vacant lot – on Monday, capping a years-long fight.
With a 6-2 vote, the commission approved HHC’s proposal to initiate the city’s seven-month Uniform Land Use Review Procedure this month. While no zoning reform is needed, the project would include a special permit for height and an air-rights move from the nearby Tin Building and Pier 17.
The plan must be reviewed by the City Council as part of ULURP. Its chances of approval are considered to be very good due to the support of local member Margaret Chin. On planning matters, the full Council usually defers to the wishes of the elected member.
HHC paid $180 million for the property in 2018 as part of its initiative to redevelop the Seaport, which included the addition of a new Pier 17. However, its ambition for 250 Water St., which had been largely vacant for decades, was stymied by local residents concerned about losing their river views, as well as by the Landmarks commission, which rejected a larger scheme in January.
HHC redesigned the space, reducing it from 757,000 to 550,000 square feet. Two 470-foot towers were combined into a single 300-foot-tall structure engineered by SOM.
Even that was met with vehement opposition from some community activists – especially residents of the adjacent Southbridge Towers, who did not want their views obstructed.
Indeed, the former parking lot was crammed into the South Street Seaport Historic District – which requires Landmarks approval for new developments – in the 1970s, mostly to satisfy Southbridge residents who had the support of many elected officials.
Recently, a few Southbridge tenants advised the city to use 250 Water as a tow pound to obstruct building. Nonetheless, over 700 residents wrote to the Landmarks panel in favor of HHC.
The project, estimated to cost between $750 million and $800 million, will include community spaces, office suites, and apartments, 70 of which will be affordable rentals.
Additionally, it requires a long-term pledge by HHC to keep the South Street Seaport Museum alive financially.
Saul Scherl, president of the HHC tristate field, expressed gratitude to the Landmarks Commission for its “thoughtful input.” He stated that the Water Street project will be critical to the city’s inclusive economic recovery following the pandemic.