Seaport Neighborhood - Infill and Discussion

Arenacale

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The timelapse pictures from Google Street View between now and 2007 are quite interesting. I am too young to remember Boston in 2007 for the most part. Anyone have any interesting memories? Here's a couple pics I wanted to share:
My family would go to Our Lady of Good Voyage on occasion, and it was this lone building the sea of parking lots. Most of my memories are related to the Masses there - record setting Lord's Prayers to get everyone out of the 7PM Mass before the 8PM Mass folks showed up.

The concert pavilion was down that end of the Seaport across the street back then (still called Harborlights). In the summer you could hear the concerts inside the chapel. Also there were a lot of tour buses staged there for some reason.
 

shmessy

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Remember that the courthouse is a federal building, with all of the requisite security demands.
Absolutely.

And in that case........whoever thought of THAT location for it should have been demoted.

Forget about the aesthetics/urban planning of it right there on that iconic spot - - -think of how much money was lost by the city/commonwealth/GSA - - whoever the hell owned that parcel - - in NOT selling to the highest private deleveloper - - it went to a freaking courthouse?????????

I forget which jail or courthouse it is, but I remember one has a killer spot on the banks of Charles (not the old former Charles Street Jail, this is another newer instance). We have to stop wasting these prime locations

It should have been put at Alewife.
 
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Vivanna

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Absolutely.

And in that case........whoever thought of THAT location for it should have been demoted.

Forget about the aesthetics/urban planning of it right there on that iconic spot - - -think of how much money was lost by the city/commonwealth/GSA - - whoever the hell owned that parcel - - in NOT selling to the highest private deleveloper - - it went to a freaking courthouse?????????

I forget which jail or courthouse it is, but I remember one has a killer spot on the banks of Charles (not the old former Charles Street Jail, this is another newer instance). We have to stop wasting these prime locations

It should have been put at Alewife.
I believe at the time it was a Joe Moakley deal to help his buddy Anthony Athanas avoid bankruptcy. The Seaport was not a desirable location back then, it wasn't even called the Seaport. Others may have a better recollection of the issues between Athanas and his development 'partners', the Pritzker's perhaps?
 

shmessy

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I believe at the time it was a Joe Moakley deal to help his buddy Anthony Athanas avoid bankruptcy. The Seaport was not a desirable location back then, it wasn't even called the Seaport. Others may have a better recollection of the issues between Athanas and his development 'partners', the Pritzker's perhaps?
Probably. All the more grimy.

Athanas was a great success story as an immigrant restauranteur.

As a property developer later on, he became a weird paranoid character who consistently shot himself in the foot out of ego. He was the earlier generation's Jamie McCourt.
 

chumbolly

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Forget about the aesthetics/urban planning of it right there on that iconic spot - - -think of how much money was lost by the city/commonwealth/GSA - - whoever the hell owned that parcel - - in NOT selling to the highest private deleveloper - - it went to a freaking courthouse?????????
Seems to me that there is a long tradition of public government buildings being keystones in cities, and in my opinion they should get prime locations, so long as they are prime buildings. Think of the Statehouse, Customs House, Public Library, the Old Courthouse before it was hidden away. And whether you agree or not whether the Moakley is a great building, it was at least an attempt at a great building, unlike, say, the O'Neill. I'd go so far as to say that the Moakley was a key catalyst on transforming the Seaport into what it is today, as intended. And the money forgone by not selling the parcel off to the highest bidder is not terribly significant on the investment timescale applicable to courthouses and the GSA.
 

shmessy

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Seems to me that there is a long tradition of public government buildings being keystones in cities, and in my opinion they should get prime locations, so long as they are prime buildings. Think of the Statehouse, Customs House, Public Library, the Old Courthouse before it was hidden away. And whether you agree or not whether the Moakley is a great building, it was at least an attempt at a great building, unlike, say, the O'Neill. I'd go so far as to say that the Moakley was a key catalyst on transforming the Seaport into what it is today, as intended. And the money forgone by not selling the parcel off to the highest bidder is not terribly significant on the investment timescale applicable to courthouses and the GSA.
All four of those buildings you listed were built over 100 years ago at a different time - - when even corner post offices and banks had columns, domes, marble floors and counters and baroque murals.

And none of those 100+ years old civic institution buildings were built on the waterfront of a semi-peninsula facing a skyline across Boston Harbor. I'd be perfectly fine putting the Moakley Courthouse on the neighborhood blocks of any of those 4 (if there were space).
 

Bananarama

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All four of those buildings you listed were built over 100 years ago at a different time - - when even corner post offices and banks had columns, domes, marble floors and counters and baroque murals.

And none of those 100+ years old civic institution buildings were built on the waterfront of a semi-peninsula facing a skyline across Boston Harbor. I'd be perfectly fine putting the Moakley Courthouse on the neighborhood blocks of any of those 4 (if there were space).
I think it's actually really nice to have that keystone-like site be occupied by a civic, more quiet building, than a typical mixed-use whatever that's all throughout seaport and the harbor walk. The park and harbor walk around it aren't detracted by a bunch of inward-drawing program with the building (instead of more restaurants, shops, etc.). It carries enough architectural weight to control the corner nicely.
 

chumbolly

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All four of those buildings you listed were built over 100 years ago at a different time - - when even corner post offices and banks had columns, domes, marble floors and counters and baroque murals.

And none of those 100+ years old civic institution buildings were built on the waterfront of a semi-peninsula facing a skyline across Boston Harbor. I'd be perfectly fine putting the Moakley Courthouse on the neighborhood blocks of any of those 4 (if there were space).
It's true I picked old examples. But perhaps that is reflective of our general turn away from investing in our public buildings, of which the Moakley is a counter-example for which I'm appreciative. As you allude, it does occupy a particularly special spot, but for me it works: the glass reflects back the lights of the towers, and the brick sides evoke the old Boston Wharf buildings. I used to have an office in one of those towers looking down on the Seaport when the Moakley was the only building on or near Fan Pier, aside from the Barking Crab. Then, it was not such a special spot.

Edit: while we're talking about the Moakley, if they still let folks inside, be sure to check out the Ellsworth Kelly paintings. They're terrific.
 

atlantaden

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I'd go so far as to say that the Moakley was a key catalyst on transforming the Seaport into what it is today, as intended.
It was the construction and completion of the Big Dig, the Ted Tunnel, the Boston Harbor clean-up, and the Silver Line, all of which cost billions in tax dollars, that opened up the Seaport to new investments and to what we have today. Of course, the Moakley Courthouse, along with the Convention Center, and ICA, changed people's perception of the desolate area the Seaport once was. The following is an interesting read on the history of Fan Pier and the Seaport.
 

Smuttynose

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Remember that the courthouse is a federal building, with all of the requisite security demands.
After Oklahoma City, you have to build new Federal Buildings/Courthouses like fortresses a la the new-ish courthouse in Salt Lake City: http://www.jcdainc.com/projects/salt-lake-city-courthouse-shading-enclosure

With all of those requirements in place, I actually think they did a reasonably good job with Boston's. The granite inscriptions of quotations is a pretty clever way to make up for the lack of street-level windows and add something of visual interest to the streetscape.
 

shawn

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The timelapse pictures from Google Street View between now and 2007 are quite interesting. I am too young to remember Boston in 2007 for the most part. Anyone have any interesting memories?
I got my license in 1998 and after testing the waters in Providence a few times (from Foxboro) my 16 year-old self gathered the courage to drive into peak Big Dig Boston for the first time. I used one of the massive parking lots in the Seaport that had already started disappearing by 2007. In 1998, outside of the Courthouse and the Seaport Hotel, there was literally nothing there but parking lots. I walked along the then-open Northern Ave Bridge to get to downtown.

I cannot believe they let 16 year-olds drive. I am sure I wasn't ready for that.
 

Scott

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Actually the South Boston waterfront was where all the good old school restaurants and diners were, as well as the chapel and the Children's Museum so it wasn't as vacant as people now seem to think. It was a very appealing place if you liked lobster pie and scrod. Now it is as soulless as a Connecticut accent.
 

nm88

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This is what I remember. I believe it's mostly correct. Athanas over the years had accumulated land around his restaurant. He always saw himself as a power broker and hoped to develop. He allied himself with the Pritzker family, well-established developers/hoteliers from Chicago who had wanted a foothold in Boston. A deal was made. A concept was created that included a canal and buildings designed by star architects (and Pritzker friends) Stern, Gehry and Libeskind, among others. Athanas saw the spotlight tilting to his Chicago partners, away from him. He felt diminished and soon felt cheated, so he sued. Everything froze as lawyers stepped in - for years. Athanas lost. He was left a sliver of his original real estate empire. The Pritzker's did nothing for years, pleading bad timing and feeling stung by the locals. Menino finally asked the Pritzkers to sell. Menino and Moakley saved Anthony's bacon by directing a federal courthouse be built on his remaining piece of land. Fallon stepped in and the rest is history we all know. Fallon is a fine man and he put his money where his mouth is, but I regret Boston did not get the Pritzker vision. (Interesting how the politics seemed unimportant in the article.)
 
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atlantaden

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stellarfun

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A short but very sweet article (1994 Washington Post) about the Moakley Courthouse and how it came about. Amazing how the politics at the time worked. Boston was lucky to have such major power brokers in Washington (especially Tip O’Neil who wasn’t even mentioned in the article).

Thank you for the link to the WaPo article.

Boston 'pols' were instrumental in 1968 in having Congress pass a law excluding certain waters in Boston Harbor (running roughly along the western side of the harbor from Fort Point Channel to the Coast Guard base) from being categorized as navigable waters of the United States, and thus subject to federal dominion and law. This extraordinary exception is the so-called 'Magenta Zone', and means these waters are not subject to the general prohibitions against 'dredge and fill' established by the federal Clean Water Act of 1972.
 

beck4537

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Life Coach Mike

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Absolutely.

And in that case........whoever thought of THAT location for it should have been demoted.

Forget about the aesthetics/urban planning of it right there on that iconic spot - - -think of how much money was lost by the city/commonwealth/GSA - - whoever the hell owned that parcel - - in NOT selling to the highest private deleveloper - - it went to a freaking courthouse?????????

I forget which jail or courthouse it is, but I remember one has a killer spot on the banks of Charles (not the old former Charles Street Jail, this is another newer instance). We have to stop wasting these prime locations

It should have been put at Alewife.
You make a good point. Aside from political favors, etc., when the Moakley was imagined and built, the entire glassed canopy area inside, overlooking the harbor and skyline was supposed to be accessible to all people, whether or not they had business in the court house. I believe there was to be a cafe or restaurant, tables, etc. Then 9-11 hit and the whole place shut down and closed up due to security fears. It's a shame that only lawyers and defendants are now able to be inside. If the building were being used as intended I wonder if it would not have felt like such an intrusion on a prime location.
 

HelloBostonHi

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You make a good point. Aside from political favors, etc., when the Moakley was imagined and built, the entire glassed canopy area inside, overlooking the harbor and skyline was supposed to be accessible to all people, whether or not they had business in the court house. I believe there was to be a cafe or restaurant, tables, etc. Then 9-11 hit and the whole place shut down and closed up due to security fears. It's a shame that only lawyers and defendants are now able to be inside. If the building were being used as intended I wonder if it would not have felt like such an intrusion on a prime location.
So this got me curious and apparently there still is public access to the building and there still are public art displays inside, just have to go through a security screening. I'd be very curious if they actually respect that public access though. http://www.moakleycourthouse.com/exhibits.html and https://www.gsa.gov/about-us/region...ssachusetts/john-joseph-moakley-us-courthouse
 

jl326

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You make a good point. Aside from political favors, etc., when the Moakley was imagined and built, the entire glassed canopy area inside, overlooking the harbor and skyline was supposed to be accessible to all people, whether or not they had business in the court house. I believe there was to be a cafe or restaurant, tables, etc. Then 9-11 hit and the whole place shut down and closed up due to security fears. It's a shame that only lawyers and defendants are now able to be inside. If the building were being used as intended I wonder if it would not have felt like such an intrusion on a prime location.
As late as ~2011- early 2012 or so, when there were very few lunch options around the immediate area at the time, I remember resorting to heading over to the cafeteria in the courthouse every once in a while. The food sucked, but the view was pretty nice since the cafeteria faced the glass curtain. It was still public then (you had to go through security screening and leave your phone with security), though I have no idea about today.
 

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