Walsh: City should sell off City Hall and lease office space somewhere else downtown

City Hall front

Marty Walsh says he would pay for universal K-1 classes by selling off City Hall. Unlike Mayor Menino, who once proposed selling off City Hall as well, however, Walsh says he would keep city offices downtown rather than trying to move them to South Boston.

Walsh says the money from selling off the 4.5-acre property would raise up to $150 million and add an estimated $6 million in tax revenues to city coffers from a landlord willing to buy the property, tear down the nine-story concrete bunker and build a new mixed-use development on it.

Walsh says he'd issue a "reverse RFP" to find a developer willing to build Boston a new City Hall and then lease it to the city, somewhere within walking distance of the current Government Center edifice.

By creating this one-time large infusion of revenue, and returning one if not two large public parcels of land to the tax rolls, the City will be positioned to pay for many of the services citizens have told me they want. We would seek to provide Universal Early Childhood Education; and invest in parks. A portion of the new tax revenue can be dedicated to public art, an important piece of our robust tourism industry. In addition, there will be a portion of revenue added to the rainy day fund. I will seek counsel from Bostonians about how to allocate this revenue, derived from an ambitious and visionary plan to expand the tax base and move our beloved City forward through the 21st century.

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Comments

Bulldoze that sucker right

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Bulldoze that sucker right over to Everett for fill for the casino. It looks like the commies built it, and degrades the rest of the historic architecture around that area.

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Disregard the Plebians

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Brutalist and Modernist concrete architecture is the finest architecture in the city. City Hall and other examples of this style are some of the only somewhat decent buildings in the city. If you can not see that then you sir have no taste.

If I became mayor I would make any building that was made of wood, or had a peaked roof, outlawed.

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You are shitting me , right

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You are shitting me , right cat? Poured concrete is okay for retaining walls or abutments, but for bastions of power of the 'Athens of America ' ,especially considering the legacy of stone quarrying in the region , it is a sin on humanity to use that thoughtless barren style. Sheesh !

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Disregard the snobs.

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Brutalist and modernist architecture is so anti-human you have to will yourself to like it. And since most people don't, it drives people away and imposes a real financial burden on its tenants and neighbors.

Add to that the added cost of heating and cooling those buildings, and keeping the damn rain and snow out (hint: peaked roofs are good at that,) and you have a white elephant that's just not frackin' worth it.

There are cities out there that are more to yoru taste, BlackKat. Tel Aviv actually does a decent job of building almost-okay modernist architecture. They also don't get any snow.

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Most Humans Have No Taste [Not Just Architecture]

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Most people don't like a lot of things that if they had better taste they would like instead. People who find the buildings oppressing should be finding them uplifting. You see the same percentages when discussing what music is good or not, art, movies, TV, etc. etc. The general public is generally wrong.

I find the buildings attractive because I love the clean, angular lines of the concrete. I love the way the structures look as the sun plays across them at dawn and dusk. And I love the many weird quirks and anomalies you find in the various terraces and balconies as they have been designed. Even as a small child, when I lived in Ithaca, my favorite building there was the Herbert Johnston museum, designed by IM Pei.
http://0.tqn.com/d/architecture/1/0/V/K/cornell917...

Buildings of the brutalist, post-impressionist, or modernist style are far more durable and energy efficient than wooden framed counterparts. There are a variety of means to handle water or snow on such buildings that are effective. Office buildings and homes around the world in all climates handle the weather just fine. You can use light sloping (as opposed to a dramatic peak), drains or guttering, or perhaps you might even consider a green roof. Green roofs have been used on a number of office buildings in Downtown Boston (1 Federal, 600 Atlantic). But even on a personal dwelling or smaller building you can build a garden or some solar panels and a deck (and get a fat tax credit). Why should the roof just be a place that covers your home when it could be an additional floor to spend time on and enjoy.

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Yes, we the people are so

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Yes, we the people are so unenlightened that we don't even know what looks visually appealing. I think the fall foliage is visually appealing, which means I must be wrong. Is that how your line of reasoning works?

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Not Quite

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The way it works is if you have the same opinion as me you are correct. If you do not agree with me you are wrong.

But this subject goes beyond aesthetic appeal and into urbanism and urban design. In that area, which is a science, not an art form, there are definitive correct schools of thought and incorrect ones.
New Urbanism is correct. Lanscape Urbanism is of the devil, and subscribers to Landscape Urbanism should all be shot out of a cannon across a field of razor blades and into a pool of rubbing alcohol. Their remains should then be burned and fed to swine.

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The puzzle

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I'm leery of New Urbanism because, while well intended, it seems to produce an awful lot of low density suburbanism. Better than 20th century sprawl, but that's not saying much.

But you are right about Landscape Urbanism, if a bit too colorful ;)

The thing is, the reasons why Landscape Urbanism sucks are basically the same reasons why Brutalism sucks. These architectural styles destroy cities from the inside. They suck the life out of them. They make every space an empty plaza/lawn. They drive away people, into cars, fleeing as far as they can get from the inhuman scale and scary empty spaces.

So I find your attachment to Brutalism more than a bit puzzling.

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"Most people don't like a lot

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"Most people don't like a lot of things that if they had better taste they would like instead. "

Maybe true. What's also true is that most people minimize the time they spend in places where they don't enjoy looking at what's around them. So if you build something that people "should" like but don't, they wander away, and that reduces the value of property in the area. Which is why the storefronts around City Hall are not as valuable as they would otherwise be.

Whether you like it or not, people are so unwilling to cultivate your taste in architecture, that they would rather spend hundreds of dollars flying to Bruges than spend what ever number of hours it took you to will your mind to like City Hall. That is something the city needs to take into account when deciding what to build and what to (please, for the love of God) to tear down.

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how would they even do it?

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The way that building is constructed, you'd probably need a nuclear warhead to demolish it.

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You know the old joke about "job security"?

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The overhangs on the side facing Fanueil Hall are going to be a nightmare to dismantle without endangering Fanueil Hall. I really suspect that was on purpose.

But they'll have to be dismantled because brutalist construction like this doesn't actually last. The overhangs will sag, and crumble, and threaten buildings we actually like, and we will have to figure out how to do this.

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A lot of Land, with a giant

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A lot of Land, with a giant slab of ugly looking concrete right in the middle of it .I say get the wrecking ball and tear it down. The interior of that building is made to play handball off every concrete wall, including the wall where you pay your real estate taxes and parking tickets..Build a 60 story skyscraper on land and use the first 3 floors as Boston city hall, skyscraper will put a shadow across the entrance of Quincy Market,, it will never happen, but great idea from Mr Walsh.

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Two words.

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Supermax prison.

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Don't think it's a stupid

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Don't think it's a stupid idea, surprised Menino did not take it down during his 20 years as Mayor, Give it to a Developer Chiafaro whoever and build a nice skyscraper made out of green products, face it, Boston City hall, and The Federal building next door look out of place.

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Great Idea

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The school department will be relocated to Dudley square within two years so Court Street can become City Hall and Scollay square will return to its former glory.

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School Dept HQ

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Probably cannot accommodate all the employees and city services at Silly Hall. Plus, BPS hearing room often is overflowing.

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Economcis fail

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One time cash grab for selling off public assets? Derp.

Why not just do something smart like build a new city hall and public space on that brutalist wasteland called government center, and then lease the rest of the land on a torn down city hall to developers that would pay us rent and land use fees?

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Or build luxury housing

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Please - for the love of God - this is Boston, we only build luxury housing around here!

On a more serious note - I think knocking it down - putting City Hall in the lower floors of a tower and commercial space above is a decent idea (and the building should face the harbor - not away from it). It would pay for itself - if - and this is a big IF - you can find tenants for the space. We haven't built a major office tower on spec for over a decade and of the ones in the pipeline - nobody's rushing to break ground because of the few people taking up new space in the city - they are mostly going to the seaport.

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Boston should follow the

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Boston should follow the Kansas City City Hall model. Build a municipal skyscraper. Fill it with City Hall and some non-criminal court departments. Lease the remaining open floors to private entities to pay for the building maintenance.

The city could then either sell or lease the current City Hall, court, and municipal spaces vacated for the new city hall tower.

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The plaza is public space.

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Government Center is not a wasteland. The plaza is not a vast swath of unused land like you seem to think.
For starters it isn't even land. It's a roof. The vast majority of the plaza is a roof for the service levels of not only City Hall but also the JFK Building, 28 State, all the buildings along Court and Washington Mall. The MBTA station is also there.

The plaza is currently used to hold rallies, circuses, festivals, farmer's markets, and concerts. It also had very nice fountains which have since been removed or shut down. Originally there were more tree stands around the plaza and cafe tables and other amenities that have all been whittled away over the years. The plaza is an invaluable public space that can not be parted with in any manner.

The only thing they should do to the building and plaza is replace the fountains which have been removed. It would be nice to see the City Hall courtyard reopened to the public as well. The plaza used to be interconnected with such. But with the current security theater and restricted entry to the building that sadly won't happen.

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Not unused. Just underused.

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When activists hold demonstrations there, you can tell they're sincere, because God knows there are better open spaces where you can just hang out and hit on people.

It's too damn hot in the summer, too damn cold (and dangerously icy) in the winter, too damn noisy all the time, and too damn ugly, because you're stuck with a view of City Hall.

Tel Aviv's City Hall building was not quite as ugly, but when they opened a restaurant on the top floor, it was popular because you couldn't see the city hall facade from it.

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One-time payments

The worst thing in the world is to use one-time payments - however large - to pay for on-going expenses. And the gimmick of a land-lease should be sent back to Dorchester asap.

(Having said that, I totally support tearing down City Hall. Ugh.)

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City government needs an ultrapowerful landlord

Is there any large city that leases all its space from a private landholder?

Is that really a good idea?

My organization has moved every 7-8 years because landlords get greedy. Do we really want city hall to either 1) be liable to rent extortion or 2) move every 7 years?

If City Hall were a private entity, it might not be a bad idea. City government held hostage by Boston landlords is a very bad idea.

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I believe that the BRA owns

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I believe that the BRA owns City Halll plaza. Remember the trust for City Hall that Menino set up. In any event maybe it doesn't matter seeing that Walsh has called for the BRA to disappear.

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City Hall Plaza was already given away

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Actually, the BRA already owns City Hall Plaza in a real estate taking for some tiny amount of money. So it is up to the (wink wink, nudge nudge) independent BRA to decide what to do with City Hall Plaza not the democratically elected Mayor of the City of Boston.

So before a candidate tells us he will sell a piece of property the city owns, he should make sure the city owns it first.

This is such a simplistic suggestion for a complicated issue that it almost doesn't bear comment. If the citizens of Boston want Universal K-1, then raise taxes to pay for it. As an earlier commenter said, one time sales to pay for recurring costs is not economically honest or feasible.

Maybe if we had a planning department they could make a smart plan on what to do with City Hall and City Hall Plaza. There's a plan!

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Horrible Idea

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This creates a conflict of interest on an astronomical scale. I can just imaging commercial property owners negotiating favorable lease rates in order to get special favors from city hall. This reeks of corruption.

Walsh is extremely dangerous. you think menino's "no-bid contracts" are annoying? Just you wait if this guy gets elected.

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Doesn't have to be just one landlord.

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The City won't come apart just because different departments lease different spaces. That would mitigate the issue considerably.

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Bold move...

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Making your special interests known BEFORE you even win the primary. Thanks the honesty, Mr. Walsh - glad you made my choice a little easier!

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Strange idea from a candidate I generally respect

So gimmicky and short-sighted that it makes me question whether Walsh would have good judgment if elected. I guess I can appreciate the "thinking out of the box" aspect. But yeah, a quick infusion of cash to support ongoing new programs? Not too smart- that money will be gone before you know it, and what happens to universal early education then?
Doesn't sound like a smart plan to me.

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so you're saying..

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...Walsh stole this idea from Consalvo?

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No

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To be fair to Consalvo, he didn't propose this as well. It just sounds like something he would have come up with. Short term buzz with no real thinking about the long term consequences.

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Out of date wiring. Out of date cabling.

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The Boston City Hall building lacks up to date wiring, up to date cabling that would make easier the connecting online. Up to date internals would make easier connecting to the net.

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