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Boston Officials Plan Zoning Petition To Enable Harbor Garage Tower

Developer Don Chiofaro wants to put a 600-foot skyscraper at the Boston Harbor Garage (center).

All is not quiet on the zoning front for developer Don Chiofaro’s long-discussed skyscraper proposal at the Boston Harbor Garage

Boston officials Monday discussed how the city is taking steps to incorporate current zoning ordinances with the Downtown Municipal Harbor Plan, a waterfront zoning plan passed by the city in 2017 that enables Chiofaro to build a 600-foot tower near the New England Aquarium. Massachusetts officials signed off on the MHP a year later with the stipulation Boston would find a way to fit the plan in with existing city zoning guidelines, the Boston Business Journal reports

The path forward for the Boston Harbor Garage tower, as well as a 305-foot tower proposed at the James Hook Lobster Co. site, first includes the Boston Planning & Development Agency petitioning the Zoning Commission to allow both projects. Should the commission give its approval, developers would then go through Boston’s standard planning and approval process and a state licensing process. 

While the projects still face several BPDA and state hurdles, Monday’s meeting was a major step forward for Chiofaro’s project. The developer bought the Boston Harbor Garage in 2007 for $153M and quickly faced headwinds from City Hall over his plans for the site. 

Chiofaro wanted two towers — one 45 stories, the other reaching 50 — while the late Boston Mayor Tom Menino only wanted 200-foot tall buildings at the site, according to a 2010 story in the Boston Globe. Residents of the neighboring 400-foot Harbor Towers have also complained and threatened legal action over Chiofaro’s proposal being too large. 

The developer has found a more welcoming audience with Mayor Martin Walsh’s administration, but even the current mayor’s team has called for Chiofaro to scale down his plans. Revised plans for Chiofaro’s development are expected to be reduced to a single tower and down from the 1.3M SF pitched in 2014.