For the second time in five years, the BPDA has concluded it would take a massive infusion of cash for repairs to turn the Raymond Flynn Marine Park back into a fully functioning seaport - and even then, shippers might not come - so instead it hopes to concentrate future development there on alternative industrial and even retail uses, and on "marine" facilities that could be built anywhere, such as seafood processors working with fish brought in by truck rather than unloaded from ships.
It's the same basic conclusion the BPDA, which owns the 191-acre marine park, came to in 2017 when it asked the state to let it increase the amount of non-marine development there.
In an update to that 2017 plan, the agency has an answer for the state regulation that requires at least 67% of the land in the marine park be set aside for "marine" uses: Multi-story buildings in which the first floor are built out for potential marine tenants while the remaining floors are leased to life-sciences and other light-industrial and office users, with the newbies helping to subsidize rents for the old salts. The agency says the park already has some buildings like that:
This building framework is one that establishes and requires high-bay industrial space on the ground floor and a range of upper-floor uses, such as research and development, light industrial and office that are compatible with water-dependent industrial uses. The upper-floor uses will provide increased rents that can subsidize the ground-floor industrial businesses and facilitate reinvestment in Park infrastructure. The intent is for this building arrangement to preserve the capacity for water-dependent industrial uses, should they return, and sustain existing industrial jobs in the RLFMP.
All this could mean 6.3 million square feet of new development in the park, the report says.
The report lays out, in broad terms, an industrial park that is a lot more Kendall Square, a bit less salt watery, with more parks and walkways for people who work in the area and even just come for a visit before and after their trips to the music tent or Harpoon. One particular parcel, which sits atop part of the Ted Williams Tunnel, would be ideal for a park, in part because putting up a building there would prove difficult, if not impossible, the report says.
Simply put, the BPDA says, there's little demand for major port improvements beyond what Massport has already done with the Black Falcon and Conley terminals.
Drivers of near-term use demand with potential to grow in the Park include biotech, life science lab space, e-commerce, as well as local food businesses and advanced manufacturing.
As the economic analysis of the RLFMP has determined that water dependent industrial uses are in decline with no existing or near-term market opportunities for over the dock activity, the Master Plan Update frames planning and land use scenarios that build on the Park's strengths, and envisions a mixed industrial-commercial use district that is compatible with, and preserves the capacity for, water dependent industrial businesses. Market trends support several options for future uses that will advance the Park's mission, including, back-of-office and City-storage uses, service areas to support just-in-time service companies, lower-margin and emerging businesses with a need for proximity to the city, and businesses that tend to cluster to reduce transaction costs for buyers and to exchange knowledge.
Still, the agency says it will continue to aid the sea-based companies that already exist in the industrial park - such as Boston Ship Repair, which runs the largest drydock in New England, large enough to handle repairs to 1,000-foot-long ships.
The agency also acknowledges that marine and the landlubber uses it wants to add sometimes conflict:
Boston Ship Repair would also be interested in handling small vessel repairs if space and a shop area could be provided near the facility. This would include the addition of a small floating dry dock. The biggest challenge, however, remains gentrification. As local non-maritime activities encroach on the dry dock footprint, activities such as hull blasting and painting are becoming more difficult. A stipulation of the expected impacts from hull blasting and painting should be considered in lease agreements with existing and future tenants.
The agency adds that it is committed to reconstruct the industrial park's road network to provide easier truck access to the nearby Haul Road for the seafood companies - and Harpoon Brewery - that require 24-hour, quick access to Logan Airport and I-93 and the turnpike - while also making the park safer for the growing numbers of workers who arrive on increasingly overloaded Silver Line buses.
This would include new striping of truck lanes within the park as well as "connecting E Street to Summer and Cypher Streets for truck access to and from the Haul Road."
Still despite the agency's unwillingness to shore up the rotting bulkheads, piers and jetties - it proposes basically just replacing the park's other drydock, in terrible shape, with a new manufacturing building - it says there's still some hope for new marine uses there, should funding for repairs somehow emerge.
For example, if somebody did pay to renovate the longest of the marine park's jetties and then modernized them - for example, by bringing in power lines so docked ships could plug in rather than using their own diesel generators - the BPDA could see them used for the unloading and storage of bulk perishable cargo in refrigerated containers, for which there's just not much room at the newly expanded Conley Terminal on the other side of the Reserve Channel. Also, the marine park could then take on the shipping and loading of "grain, legumes, pelletized hay and similar agricultural products."
Even more optimistically, the park could be set up to handle the loading and unloading of "heavy weight rail cars carrying wood and paper products."
Of course, the last one would require an actual rail line, rather than the current Track 61, parts of which inside the marine park are now used for car parking and much of which outside the park has been converted into a test track for those new Red Line cars. Still, the BPDA says it would recommend maintaining ownership of the right of way for that fabled day when it could be turned back into a functioning rail spur, if nowhere near the extensive rail network that once existed along the South Boston waterfront.
The report says the marine park is well served by the Silver Line, but acknowledges the route is already near capacity and that more work is needed to ensure people can get to and from jobs in the district, possibly with designated truck/bus routes and ferry service directly to and from the marine park. Also, all the new development will need at least some new parking, the agency says, adding some might be able to be freed up from a "bank" of spaces designated for the overall waterfront. Also needed: Much better bike lanes and storage facilities.
The report also notes rising seas, and says the BPDA recently began a resilience fund - maintained in part by fees levied on marine-park tenants, to study and plan for ways to keep the whole place from sinking under the sea. Potential ideas include a roughly $300 million to $400 million network of flood walls and tide gates, and raised roads and sidewalks. Also needed: "Resilient" buildings that have their key mechanical systems well above potential flood levels over the next 50 years and that have paths for water to flow under or through them during flooding.