Developer presses on with plan for towers
$2.2b project faces money, land issues
Despite political and economic headwinds, Boston developer Ted Raymond is plowing ahead with his plan to build a pair of skyscrapers as part of a $2.2 billion development on the current site of the
Raymond, chairman of Raymond Property Co., filed plans with the city yesterday to demolish the hulking garage and replace it with two glass office towers, one with 42 stories on Congress Street, and the other with 52 stories, wedged into the block between New Chardon and New Sudbury streets.
The proposal also calls for a hotel, stores, restaurants, and a pair of residential buildings along the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway.
The firm selected to design the development is Cook + Fox Architects, of New York, officials familiar with the project said.
The design was not included in plans filed yesterday, but a rendering posted on the project's website shows two sleek glass towers open to large amounts of natural light. The larger of the two towers, rivaling the 52-story Prudential Building in height, would be a shimmering three-tiered building that culminates in an angular crown.
City Hall has already voiced reservations, not least because Ray mond proposes to build the bigger tower on land he doesn't own.
Because of that, Raymond separated his plan into two development scenarios: one that includes only the property he owns, and a second one that stretches onto property occupied by a newly renovated Boston police station and an NStar facility.
Raymond must acquire that property to build the larger of the two towers, or rights to build there. He would also have to relocate or build around the police station and the NStar facility.
A representative for Raymond, Justine Griffin, said the project's planning consultant, the Cambridge firm Chan Krieger Sieniewicz, recommended that NStar and city parcels be included in the development.
The Boston Redevelopment Authority is convening a group of neighbors to make recommendations.
A spokeswoman said NStar has been in preliminary discussions with Raymond about its facility.
"We need to evaluate if it can be relocated or if the developer could obtain a permit to build over it," said the spokeswoman, Caroline Allen.
Raymond's gambit is made harder by the timing: A mayoral election is coming in November. Already, one opponent of Mayor Thomas M. Menino, City Councilor Michael Flaherty, is accusing city officials of going too light on Raymond's proposal.
"Why are we as a city allowing a developer to make the rules here?" Flaherty asked. "The City of Boston just invested roughly $5 million of taxpayer money in the police station. Now, we're selling it off to a bidder of the BRA's choice."
The BRA's director, John Palmieri, sharply rejected that criticism, saying the process for considering Raymond's proposal is just getting started.
"To suggest that we're not paying enough attention to good planning is nonsense," he said.
Another challenge is money. Loans for commercial development are almost nonexistent. But Griffin said Raymond has strong financial partners who would finance him once he receives city approvals, hoped for in 12 to 18 months.
His partners are the pension fund of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and Lewis Trust Group, a British real estate firm.
"We will be well-positioned to capitalize on the first seeds of economic recovery in Boston," Griffin said.