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Boston Harbor Garage redevelopment may finally definitely—kind of—be happening

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Or at least that’s what the Chiofaro Company hopes as the developer files plans for a mixed-use tower of up to 600 feet

Aerial shot of a city waterfront with a big, rectangular garage next to taller buildings.
The garage is at the upper center, next to the two Harbor Towers buildings.
The Chiofaro Company

The Chiofaro Company has proposed replacing the Boston Harbor Garage at 270 Atlantic Avenue on the downtown waterfront with a tower of up to 600 feet in height and with as much as 900,000 square feet of residential and commercial space.

The Boston-based developer made the proposal via a letter of intent filed with the Boston Planning and Development Agency on November 20.

If it all sounds familiar, it is: Chiofaro has been trying for many years to redevelop the garage that it bought in 2007. Myriad challenges have confronted the firm, including opposition from neighbors—including the New England Aquarium and the owners in the Harbor Towers condo complex—as well as financing and zoning issues.

Now, though, the company is confident that it can advance what would instantly become one of Boston’s tallest buildings.

“We are excited about how the design work has progressed, and, over the next few months, we’ll be refining our ideas and preparing to shift from talking in the abstract about aspirations to engaging in a robust public discussion of a real design,” Don Chiofaro Jr., the firm’s vice president and project manager, said in a statement.

Abstract it largely is now. The letter of intent spells out the general contours of the tower—the approximately 600 feet and the approximately 900,000 square feet—and it and the statement from Chiofaro include references to office, dining, retail, and residential and/or hotel components, without any hard numbers.

The statement also hints at the tower’s design, which would include “multiple stories of public retail amenities, providing seven-day energy that will activate the surrounding open space and amplify the area’s existing and future cultural and educational assets.”

Along these lines, Chiofaro appears to be tapping into the current local zeitgeist surrounding development and transportation. The firm’s November 20 statement—issued the same day as the BPDA letter—says the proposal is an “unparalleled opportunity to replace an auto-centric obstacle to harbor access with significant new public open space along the waterfront in Boston’s urban core.”

And the company is tying its proposal to the Downtown Waterfront Municipal Harbor Plan, a state-approved rezoning of 42 acres of Boston waterfront and tideland that appeared back in 2018 to clear the way for Chiofaro’s last Boston Harbor Garage redevelopment plan.

Two lawsuits, though, including one from the Harbor Towers owners, have held up implementation of that rezoning and could yet crash this newest plan for the Harbor Garage (which, to be clear, would include “substantial” underground parking, according to the BPDA letter, including for the general public).

Still, Chiofaro is reportedly confident of winning the requisite approvals within the next 18 months. Stay tuned.