- May 25, 2006
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LinkThe Globe said:A SoHo developer takes on Fort Point site
By Thomas C. Palmer Jr., Globe Staff | June 30, 2006
A New York development team that helped bring lively urban style to South Beach and SoHo won permission yesterday to tackle the redevelopment of historic brick warehouses in the heart of Boston's Fort Point Channel area.
Goldman Properties, in partnership with Archon Group, received approval from the Boston Redevelopment Authority to turn a pair of mostly empty yellow-brick warehouse buildings on Summer Street into 88 luxury condos, including five glass penthouse residences on top.
Those two conversions are the first steps in an ambitious plan to convert 10 old Boston Wharf Co. buildings into hip housing for city dwellers, and turn the area around Summer and A streets into a lively district of sidewalk cafes, restaurants, galleries, and buildings decorated with colorful artwork and displays.
``I want to see entrepreneurial expression, risk-taking, and creativity" as the buildings are redeveloped, an animated Tony Goldman , chief executive of Goldman Properties, said as he walked briskly on a tour of the neighborhood.
Goldman has converted buildings in once rundown neighborhoods in Miami Beach, New York, and Philadelphia, and now he's turned his attention to Boston.
A year ago, the local office of Archon Group, a real estate unit of the financial firm Goldman Sachs Group Inc., paid about $92 million for 17 brick-and-beam buildings in the Fort Point Channel area that were once part of the historic, 80-building Boston Wharf Co. portfolio of warehouses.
``What we had here was a perfect Goldman opportunity," said John M. Matteson, regional director of acquisitions and management for Archon.
That 1.2 million square feet of buildings made up the last transaction in Boston Wharf's property liquidation, as the company closed the door on 150 years of shipping and storage business.
``These buildings have good bones," Goldman said in a recent interview.
It's already an area settled by artists, and Goldman wants to make the old Boston Wharf name synonymous with a district where people live, work, dine, and have fun -- inside, on roofs, on sidewalks, and in alleys.
He said he envisions movies shown on a screen supported between the backs of his buildings -- or perhaps against the side of a taller office tower to be built in a few years on the South Boston Waterfront end of Summer Street.
Ten of the buildings will be extensively renovated or expanded, in four phases. The other seven, commercial buildings, were previously modernized by Boston Wharf, are 85 percent occupied with paying tenants, and don't need immediate attention.
The developers intend to widen sidewalks and plant a variety of trees to enhance outdoor life.
``This is a great place in time," Goldman said. ``Right now you drive through and there's no respect. It's devoid. The streets need connectivity."
Goldman has hired ADD Inc., of Cambridge, to draw up a master plan. Bargmann Hendrie + Archetype Inc., which occupies space in 316 Summer St., designed the two buildings.
Construction will start this year on the 316 and 322 buildings. The Goldman group plans retail space on the first floor, with studios and one- to three-bedroom units on the upper floors, and glitzy penthouses above them.
``The pioneers will be without children," Goldman said. ``As it evolves, it'll be more conducive to families."
Mark Maloney , director of the Boston Redevelopment Authority, said he likes Goldman's enthusiasm for the neighborhood.
``The thinking they're bringing to that area is to take preservation to its highest standard, and remake the public realm in a way that is more welcoming," Maloney said.
The Boston Wharf buildings Archon bought are more or less in the center of the old company's onetime empire. Other companies own surrounding former Boston Wharf buildings, and beyond those is the burgeoning South Boston Waterfront area.
``We believe this will be the ignition for the 500 acres around us," Goldman said.
Maloney said city officials want to ensure that wide Summer Street, stretching between Fort Point Channel and the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center, is lively. ``If it's active and well-lit and comfortable, people will know they're in a decent environment. We hope they'll walk and wander."
But Maloney doesn't want to see the development overdone. ``I told them they're not going to turn it into Disneyland," he said.
Thomas C. Palmer Jr. can be reached at email@example.com.