BOSTON-Equity Office Properties Trust has proposed redeveloping Russia Wharf, a 95,000-sf site located on the South Boston waterfront at the nexus of the financial district, South Station and Fort Point Channel. The project will also be situated right the Central Artery, the 30-acre swath of land that will be exposed once the Big Dig, the massive highway construction project, drops the highway underground.

The Chicago-based developer, which currently owns the Boston Harbor Hotel, filed its plans for the project with the Boston Redevelopment Authority. The proposed project involves office space, residential units, a hotel and retail, civic and open space. In its filing, Equity says it hopes to “revitalize the site and in so doing to preserve and protect the historic Russia, Graphic Arts and Tufts buildings,” the three buildings currently on the property.

The project, as filed by Equity, includes converting the Russia Building, located on Atlantic Ave. into 50 residential units on the upper floors and retail space on the ground floor. 10% of the units will be designated as affordable housing. The developer also wants to do an “adaptive reuse” of the other two buildings, by preserving historic portions of the building and creating a 300-room hotel with ground floor retail space, restaurants, gallery space and a jazz club. A 22-story office building with 500,000-sf of space would be constructed above a portion of the Graphic Arts and Tufts buildings. A waterfront plaza connecting Congress St. to the open space at Boston Edison would be created on the Fort Point Channel as well as an underground 512-car garage.

Current allowable heights in the area are only about 100 feet, well below a 22-story office tower. The city is in the process of developing a municipal harbor plan for the downtown side of Fort Point Channel and Russia Wharf would be included in that. It is assumed that heights will be going higher than current restrictions but probably not as high as this proposal is looking to build. The three buildings are also considered historic so there are preservation issues associated with those buildings as well. Furthermore, financing a hotel project is notoriously difficult these days

As part of the public benefits, a five million dollar contribution will be made to the city’s Housing trust as linkage payment to support the creation of affordable housing. An additional linkage payment of one million dollars will be made to the city’s Job Trust.

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