State rejects Lewis Wharf plan

The Boston Globe | By Tim Logan
September 22, 2016

lewis-wharfState officials this week dealt a blow to a controversial hotel proposed for Lewis Wharf, signaling that there are limits to how far they will let Boston’s building boom surge up to, and beyond, the edge of the city’s waterfront.

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection Wednesday ruled that developers cannot build out onto wharves, piers, and pilings that sit below water at high tide. That will likely send a 277-room hotel planned for the edge of Lewis Wharf back to the drawing board.

The hotel is one of several contentious waterfront developments coming before state regulators.

The Department of Environmental Protection is currently reviewing a condo tower at 150 Seaport Blvd. that’s being opposed by the influential Conservation Law Foundation, which is concerned it will wall off public access to the harbor. And the Boston Redevelopment Authority is wrapping up a lengthy process to rezone the downtown waterfront from Long Wharf to the Northern Avenue Bridge that could allow for at least two tall towers, but not before the state signs off.

It’s too soon to say what the Lewis Wharf decision might mean for those other projects, development specialists said. Neither 150 Seaport nor Don Chiofaro’s proposed tower at the Boston Harbor Garage would build over the same kind of submerged piers as Lewis Wharf.

But it does suggest that state environmental regulators view waterfront development through a different lens than Boston officials, said Conservation Law Foundation senior counsel Peter Shelley.

“The state does not have this development function here [that the BRA does],” Shelley said. “It will be reviewing these with its trustee hat on. That’s a very unique and important role.”

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