Seaport plan scales back arts facility

The Boston Globe | By Tim Logan and Malcolm Gay
February 16, 2017

When it was first drawn up nearly a decade ago, the plan to build out the heart of the Seaport District included a school, art gallery, branch library, several parks, and one very large performing arts center.

But over time, as the rest of the waterfront neighborhood has filled in and new economic realities set in, the Seaport Square project has trimmed the size of its parks and dropped plans for the school, library, and gallery. Now it appears the performing arts center could vanish, too.

The new owner of 13 acres of Seaport Square, Chestnut Hill-based WS Development, filed a revised building plan in February for nine blocks of housing, office space, and a tree-lined promenade from Summer Street to the waterfront.

But in one key departure from the original project approved by City Hall seven years ago, WS Development dropped a 200,000-square-foot theater from its building plan, saying it is instead considering a “cultural corridor” of likely-smaller venues.

WS said the switch was driven by changes in Boston’s cultural scene, where smaller spaces are more in demand than another giant theater.

But for some activists, the loss of the proposed theater is another sign of how the original ambitions for civic facilities and open space in the Seaport District have been reduced.

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