Bostonia Rantida

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The MacAllen Monstrosity

One of the kind of cool things about Southie is the decided lack of high rises. Actually, that's one of the cool things about Boston in general. The only places you have them are parts of Back Back/Copley, and obviously the Finny D. Southie has its three-deckers, and that's that. Sure, a couple taller buildings are going up near the new waterfront, but they hardly obstruct anyone's view around the inhabited bits -- the BCEC, Manulife building, World Trade, and new Westin are all down in their own little section, the so-called Waterfront. Admittedly, there are a few bigger buildings here and there, plus the power plant on Summer Street and Gilette down on Dorchester Ave, but mostly Southie has a low skyline and I think that's cool.

When they started putting up this new building, it looked like it was just going to be a parking garage. It was at Dot Ave and Fourth, next to the West Fourth bridge that takes you to Berkeley Street in the South End, and the Broadway T, so I would walk by once in awhile on my way to work.

It seemed normal-sized for awhile ... and then they started building on top of it. And it just kept going up further and further and now ...

It's huge!


Via this "rendering," you can see how much it towers above the neighboring building, 9 Dorchester Avenue, which is 5 or 6 stories, at least. Granted, a lot of these two buildings are below the West Fourth Street bridge level, so they're not so obstructive, but the MacAllen goes much, much higher than 9 Dot Ave. Even incomplete, it literally towers above anything near it.

Now here's one of the blurbs they have on the MacAllen site about the Fort Point Channel -- it's so ridiculous, I had to write it all out for you, although I scanned it and linked the pictures as well ... my comments to it are in bold and parentheses.

sure, it looks nice, but it smells, even up here!


The Fort Point Channel is a former industrial waterway that links South Boston to the Financial District and the rest of the city's waterfront. The channel begins at Boston Harbor at the site of the Boston Tea Part Ship and the Children's Museum. From there, it snakes inland to its terminus only a short walk from the Macallen Building, at the South End side of the West Fourth Street Bridge. It was once a vital part of the city's commercial and industrial life (i.e. it was polluted), but fell into disuse and disrepair in the latter half of the 20th century. Today, the city is in the midst of a multi-million dollar rehabilitation project that promises to turn the Fort Point Channel into Boston Common on the water now underway (and where exactly is this happening?). The Fort Point Channel Water Quality Task Force is in the midst of a massive effort to improve the water's safety and beauty. Several parks are completed or nearing completion, including Children's Park near the channel's mouth, and Cabot Cove Prak nearer the MacAllen Building (Which is where lots of homeless men hang out). By the time MacAllen is ready for occupancy, nearly all of the proposed improvements to the area are scheduled to be completed.


The Macallen Building sits at the southern end of Fort Point Channel, only a short walk from the most inland basin called the South Bay. This area is slated to host several canoe and kayak docks as well as at least two parks (As much as you can't swim in the Charles River, I feel like people are okay with accidentally falling into it -- I feel that's not the case with the Fort Point).

A new walkway called the South Bay Harbor Trail will literally pass across the Macallen Building's doorstep. This trail will provide convenient and appealing pedestrian access not only to the emerging attractions of the Fort Point Channel, but also to many Boston neighborhoods from the South Boston Waterfront to the North End, including the Financial District.

This means many resdidents will be able to walk to work (yes, but through a heavily industrial/uninhabited area, or under a highway and past the Pine Street Inn). It also means that any resident can step out their front door and go for a run, a bike ride, or a leisurely stroll through a recreation are designed as a flagship city attraction.

I don't understand why the building is referred to as both the "MacAllen Building" and the Macallen Building," but whatever. That's a small issue.

Here's the thing ... I'm not one of those people that totally dogs on gentrification. Not having to worry about walking around my neighborhood at night is cool. Little shops and bars and restaurants around are cool. Even a few yuppies around is fine; they have dogs and their men are pretty. And I can't say the area doesn't look nicer in the spots where money has come in. But when you make rents shoot up a lot and you displace EVERYONE who is in a lower socio-economic bracket, that's BAD. Because they just get pushed out to the edges more, and then they all have to move out and all is does is push people around. The way to go is communities that have all ends of the spectrum, rich, middle class, and poor, living in the same areas, but of course, this is America, and the rich live in Wellesley, and the poor live in Roxy, and that's the way love goes. But it's not an altogether healthy way of building communities -- unless you're in one of the rich ones, some might say.

But that's not why I'm posting this. It just seems like another huge, ridiculous thing, like your giant Hummer H3 or your stupid Escalade or ostentatious Beemer minivan. Status. It's all about status symbols.

Rail Yard

Unfortunately for someone who moves in there, the rail yard behind them and the MBTA bus depot across from that isn't going anywhere. The little bits of the Fort Point Channel that you get that far back there are pretty disgusting, even if the little "Harborwalk" looks nice. There are lofts going up right across the street, at 36A, which is just down the road from the D Street Projects. The point I'm making, is all this crap that's around there, the stinky end of Fort Point that's accessible via (probably) a big tube under the railyard, the railyard itself, the MBTA bus depot, the industrial Dot Ave/OC Corridor, and the Projects -- that's not going to change. It's nice to get people living over there, but do we really have to go so overboard with these huge places? I mean, it's nice that it's a green building, but isn't there a way to have green buildings for, I don't know, the NON-ultra rich?

I just don't get buildings like this. But whatever. Go gentrification, right?


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