Bulfinch Crossing | Congress Street Garage | West End

statler

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Downtown garage will go on block
Proximity to Greenway could entice developers

By Thomas C. Palmer Jr., Globe Staff | September 21, 2006

Boston's largest parking garage, the imposing concrete structure at the mouth of Congress Street, near Haymarket, is for sale.

While parking structures are valuable properties in Boston, One Congress Street may draw big interest from investors as a development site, because of its location at the edge of the new Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway, in a part of downtown transformed by the removal of the elevated Central Artery.

Indeed, marketing materials focus on the property's ``stunning views of the Boston Harbor and the Financial District."

Standing 11 stories and spanning four acres over two city blocks, One Congress, the promotional materials add, ``includes significant air rights, and could ideally accommodate Boston's next office, residential, or mixed-use tower."

``We're not the people to do that," owner Randy Kohana said of redeveloping One Congress Street. ``I believe it's the best site in Boston, with 360-degree views that are completely protected."

His New York City firm, RAK Group, owns the property with Stockbridge Real Estate Funds, also of New York.

The property goes on the market tomorrow, but with no listed asking price. The current owners bought it in 2000 for $118.5 million. ``It's worth a lot more than we paid for it," Kohana said. ``Sometimes it's good to take the chips off the table."

One Congress Street has parking for 2,310 cars, is topped by two huge floors of glass-enclosed office space, and has a busy MBTA stop for buses, and entrances to the Orange and Green subway lines on the ground level.

While not a high-rise, One Congress is unusually long for a downtown building, with office floor plates five times the size of those in a standard tower. The garage portion was designed by Samuel Glaser Associates and Kallmann, McKinnell & Wood, the firm that created Boston's concrete City Hall.

It was built as part of the Government Center urban renewal project, which replaced colorful Scollay Square. It was closed in 1980, deemed unsafe because of corrosion and cracking, and reopened about six months later after about $120,000 worth of repairs. The city sold the garage off in 1983. It has been added onto over time, with the upper-floor office space built in 1990.

It's unusual for a parking facility to be offered for sale, and Boston has the second-most-expensive parking market in the United States, after New York City's, according to Cushman & Wakefield of Massachusetts Inc. ``Few parking garages ever come on the market, and this one has development potential, too," said Rob Griffin, president of Cushman & Wakefield, which is marketing the property for RAK Group.

The 294,505 square feet of office space on the top two floors are mostly leased, through 2009, to the US Environmental Protection Agency.

There is also retail space, occupied by Kaplan, an educational and career services firm owned by the Washington Post Co., Dunkin' Donuts, and a food market. The building's lower space was once home to Destinations, a nightclub that opened in 1991 with Kool & the Gang.

The property was among several featured in a Boston Globe Spotlight Team report in 1989, when it became known that former Massachusetts Attorney General Edward J. McCormack Jr., a friend of former Mayor Kevin White, had been an investor in that and other properties that had won City Hall approvals and increased in value.

One article said parking spaces are ``like large bars of gold" and called the garage ``McCormack's Fort Knox."

Thomas C. Palmer Jr. can be reached at tpalmer@globe.com.
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DowntownDave

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WOW, this is excellent news. Since the EPA controls the number of parking spaces downtown, can the rights to create spaces be sold? The buyer could then sell off spaces to other developers, raze the garage, and include underground parking beneath whatever is developed on the site.
 

JSic

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:D :D :D :D :D Awesome! This is the ugliest building in town.

Now, State Service Center, you're next. :twisted:
 

Joe_Schmoe

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Hooray! The article didn't mention tearing it down, but come on! Whoever buys it has got to tear it down and open up Congress Street to the Bulfinch triangle. And reestablish a real Haymarket Sq. Dream dream dream...
 

JSic

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Aside from whatever gets built, they should strive to bring back the old street grid as much as possible. And a new Haymarket Square would be awesome.
 

LeTaureau

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This is great news! Lets hope they put it on the chopping block after the auction block.
 

Beton Brut

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This is a better development site for the sort of iconic tower Menino wants to see built in Winthrop Square...More land, better access to public transportation, zero interference from the FAA...If the city wants to seriously court developers to build big (>800'), this is one place to do it (the other, for all the same reasons, is the site of the old Boston Garden)...

JSic said:
Now, State Service Center, you're next.
More tomatoes for Paul Rudolph's unfinished masterpiece...My idea has always been to "relocate" the soon-to-be displaced arts community in the Fort Point Channel area to the Hurley...The state should sell to a developer interested in the adaptive re-use of architecturally significant buildings (and I'd argue that the Hurley is of equivalent value to any of Greater Boston's other modern icons -- Hancock, Carpenter Center, City Hall, Christian Science Center, etc); the developer should bring in some talent (Norman Foster, Zaha Hadid) and convert the building to non-conventional lofts, with collective studio, exhibition, and performance spaces, and put a winter-garden over the park...The state has never been a worthy occupant for this building, and has really exacerbated its problems with maintenance ranging from careless to poor...

I know modernism isn't for everyone -- neither is French Second Empire, but I'd never recommend dynamiting Comm. Ave...

I'll leave you with this: in 1950, the City of Buffalo bulldozed this --







They replaced it with a parking lot that remains to this day...
 

statler

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The garage was recently given a spiffy paint job. It gave it sort of a glossy smooth look.
An off-topic question for Beton Brut (Or ablarc, or anyone else): Would painting City Hall like this ruin part of what is considered beautiful about it, that is, the 'rough concrete' look? Would it still be considered an architectual masterpiece in the eyes of those who now proclaim it so?
 

vanshnookenraggen

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Beton Brut said:
This is a better development site for the sort of iconic tower Menino wants to see built in Winthrop Square...More land, better access to public transportation, zero interference from the FAA...If the city wants to seriously court developers to build big (>800'), this is one place to do it (the other, for all the same reasons, is the site of the old Boston Garden)...
This is a horrible place to put an 800' tower! It is right newxt to the North End and the Bulfinch Triangle, full of low scale buildings. It would be totally wrong scale wise.
 

castevens

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ya. That would look awkward as literally the last tall building to the north. Well, next to the soaring JFK building
 
I

IMAngry

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Maybe not 800 feet tall

How about a 500-foot tower, like 60 State Street? Maybe tapered, even, say 600-feet tall at the top. sloping down toward the Greenway?
 

Joe_Schmoe

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I think demolishing the garage and building two moderately sized twin towers, say, 20 stories or so, one on each side of Congress St, which form a semicircle on the Bulfinch side to recreate Haymarket Sq, would be super cool.
 

Roxxma

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Beton Brut said:
This is a better development site for the sort of iconic tower Menino wants to see built in Winthrop Square...More land, better access to public transportation, zero interference from the FAA...If the city wants to seriously court developers to build big (>800'), this is one place to do it ...
Like the residents of Beacon Hill wouldn't collectively crap their pants over that one...
 

vanshnookenraggen

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Joe_Schmoe said:
I think demolishing the garage and building two moderately sized twin towers, say, 20 stories or so, one on each side of Congress St, which form a semicircle on the Bulfinch side to recreate Haymarket Sq, would be super cool.
Since Boston needs more parking than office space and condos, this will probably stay a garage. But if anything was to be built, a low building, say 10 to 15 stories would be good right in Haymarket Sq, on the edge of the North End, and further up the hill you could built taller buildings, perhapse even a 30 story condo/office building.

Anything more would kill the scale.
 

Beton Brut

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statler said:
The garage was recently given a spiffy paint job. It gave it sort of a glossy smooth look.
An off-topic question for Beton Brut (Or ablarc, or anyone else): Would painting City Hall like this ruin part of what is considered beautiful about it, that is, the 'rough concrete' look? Would it still be considered an architectual masterpiece in the eyes of those who now proclaim it so?
Not so off-topic, statler...

Justin once astutely observed that concrete "records its own history" (check out the board-markings, and even woodgrain in City Hall)...Painting would spoil this...

Better, I think, to power-wash, and (possibly) clear-coat with a sealing agent...The extremes of weather and temperature are tougher in Boston than in Los Angeles, one of America's laboratories for concrete buildings...

I knew that my suggestion of building tall in this location would be controversial...I look forward to the next few years, and the potential revitalization for the Bulfinch Triangle...This can and should be a vital, 24-hour neighborhood, with housing, restaurants, bars, entertainment, and shopping...There's no reason at all why tall buildings with well-designed street-presence can't co-exist, and dare I say enhance an historic district...I wouldn't put anything over 30-stories fronting on the Greenway, but at the "back" of the site, where the "drum" and elevator-tower of the garage is located, go large -- 75 stories...

This isn't unprecedented -- about 20 years ago the Feds killed a plan for a 40+ story hotel on the eastern-most end of City Hall Plaza, replacing the low-rise portion of the JFK Building (this is still a good idea)...

I'm all for restoring the old street-grid (including Hanover Street), and opening up the view from State Street to North Station...The Greenway side of the site may also be a good spot for a farmers' market under a glazed canopy, facing the Y (if they ever build it)...
 

JPC

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I believe that a tall tower would be good for the area. The Nashua Street Residences are going to start construction in the next year.
A residential tower is envisioned as just the first step in a grand redevelopment plan next to the arena that someday might rival the Back Bay?s Prudential Center.
If more towers are constructed by the Garden, this lot would be a great place to draw the skyline together. It would also look quite sleek having an 800ft tower rise from a relatively mid-rise area and would help alleviate the concrete void of the government center by surrounding it with more high rises.
 

vanshnookenraggen

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If the tower was very slender, like that new building they are proposing in Chicago, then I would be all for it. It is the bulky, square towers that seem to be the norm in Boston that would ruin the scale.

Actually, I think Boston would look really cool with a few slender, tall towers.

In regards to the Feds, as long as they are in that building nothing good will happen to Gov't Center.
 

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