Study of Cultural, Civic, and Non-Profit Facilities of Public Accommodation in Boston *
The Boston Redevelopment Authority sought to understand the market forces at work, and the needs and concerns of non-profits that had the potential to invigorate the waterfront with public uses, programming, and Boston Harbor connections, but that were not occupying prime Harborwalk spaces. Facilities of Public Accommodation (FPAs) are public uses (restaurants, performance areas, hotels, retail, educational and cultural institutions) required under the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ Waterways Regulations (Chapter 91) for new or redevelopment projects. In the coming years, several hundred thousand square feet of FPA space will be created in Boston as various waterfront projects are completed. Developers and the City were having difficulty recruiting non-profits to lease FPA ground floor space. With 47 miles of shoreline within Boston borders and seven major waterfront neighborhoods, the City was seeking to better understand community needs and market forces to offer assistance to developers and help activate waterfront space with appropriate public uses and programming.
- How much space currently exists and how much is projected to come on line in the next ten to fifteen years?
- What are the differences in available space and in the needs of each waterfront neighborhood?
- How can national case studies inform local planning?
- What do non-profits need in terms of waterfront space, leasing arrangements, and economics to enable them to locate on the waterfront?
Challenges were met by meeting with developers and non-profit leaders to understand the needs of both groups. Previously held assumptions about the needs of arts and cultural organizations were dispelled and a new understanding gained of space needs and financial constraints. The development community’s need for permitting clarity and assistance around the unique challenges of waterfront development were also made clear through the planning process. The team was able to fashion a set of recommendations that creatively fulfilled the intent of the Chapter 91 regulations while recognizing the challenges facing developers and potential tenants.
View Client Website
- Estimated 21% of the required FPA space vacant…indicating a weak market for waterfront ground floor public uses
- Revealed incorrect assumption that all waterfront space is desirable for lease, and that remote waterfront locations or neighborhoods with fewer public amenities and a weak public realm have difficulty filling ground floor waterfront space with public uses
- Calculated an additional 700k SF of FPA space coming on line in the next few years and a total of 1.5 million SF over the next 20 years – increasing the need to provide support and guidelines for filling space
- Convened non-profit focus groups that identified needs including long-term leases at low cost, high-visibility/high-access sites, high-impact surrounding uses, and desire for clustering similar uses for maximum marketing potential
- Identified unique needs and potential unifying themes in each Boston waterfront neighborhood
- Recommended temporary waterfront uses that can fill vacant space in meaningful and impactful ways
- Recommended that the Boston waterfront needs a programming entity similar to the Freedom Trail organization
- Provided developers with clarity and streamlining of permitting, and a clearinghouse to match non-profit space needs with waterfront ground floor spaces in order to enhance ability to activate waterfront development
* Community Partners Consultants, Inc.: Susan Silberberg, Senior Vice-President and Project Director