Massport clears way for 1,000-room South Boston hotel

The Boston Globe | By Jon Chesto
April 14, 2017

A massive new hotel complex — with more than 1,000 rooms, a sprawling ballroom, and potentially a skating rink — is coming to the center of the South Boston Waterfront.

The hotel, approved Thursday by the Massachusetts Port Authority’s board, will be the Seaport’s largest, located at the corner of D and Summer streets, across from the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center.

Thursday’s vote authorizes the authority to enter into a development agreement and ground lease with Omni Hotels & Resorts, whose $550 million project will feature two 20-story towers, 120,000 square feet of meeting space, 40,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space, and an 8,500-square-foot spa and fitness center.

“Omni really wants to make this a destination,” Massport chief executive Thomas Glynn said. “They really want to make a statement and do something that is creative on the design front and connects with the city’s identity. . . . They want the hotel to be successful 365 days a year, not just the 220 days when there’s a convention.”

The project, billed as a powerful magnet for conventioneers and tourists, has been in the works for more than two years. But it suffered a big setback in April 2015, when Governor Charlie Baker decided to put a proposed expansion of the convention center on hold.

That prompted Massport to scale back its ambitions to redevelop its 2.1-acre lot on the corner, significantly reducing the minimum specifications for the hotel that could be built there. Six development teams, including three that were in the running for the bigger project, then submitted plans for the hotel site.

By last fall, Massport had narrowed the field down to one: the Omni project. Omni, a Texas-based hotel operator, studied the potential demand and decided to go with a larger-scale hotel, after all.

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