Pier 5 Found to be Severely Structurally Deficient

By Seth Daniel

Several things came from the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) meeting on Nov. 14 about the status of things in the Navy Yard, but none were as disappointing as the news that Pier 5 is far more deteriorated than anyone expected – and likely cannot support anything on it, including development or programming.

Pier 5 – now fenced off and vacant – has been eyed for some time as an area that could support a unique housing development and also an innovative green space/play area. There were high hopes for getting something interesting on the Pier for a short-term or mid-term use by next summer, but according to BPDA officials, that is no longer a possibility.

The problem is the pier is in much worse structural shape than anyone expected. The BPDA had done a structural study of the pier over the summer and fall, expecting to be able to put some of its own money into shoring it up.

Upon receiving the results of that study, things have changed, Rich McGuinness of the BPDA said.

“We thought some unique public use could be supported there along the pier, but it appears it’s not in good enough shape, so we cannot open it up to the public,” he said. “We’re talking about repairs that are in the $6 million range to make it safe for public access. That’s just not feasible. The bad news is that we can’t do something in the short to mid-term out there.”

That was quite disappointing for many living in the Navy Yard, who had dreamt of having some kind of fund ‘Lawn on D’ recreation area as has been developed in South Boston. Now, it appears that Pier 5 will only remain fenced off.

Even more disappointing news is that the condition of Pier 5 likely will preclude any development there in the long term.

“We’re not sure about the functionality of anything occurring out there because of the condition of the pier,” he said. “You are taking a lot of risks…There are just really big challenges for doing something out there.”

All is not completely lost, as McGuinness said they are considering some input from the community to perhaps “green up” the pier so it doesn’t look so decrepit and blighted.

“We’ll look into that,” he said.

He said they likely will be putting illuminated numbers at the end of all of the piers, including Pier 5, so that one can see the way the piers were laid out when the Navy used them.

  • In other exciting Navy Yard news, the BPDA board has approved releasing a Request for Proposals (RFP) to activate the Navy Yard.

BPDA officials said they would begin drafting the RFP immediately and likely have it out next month.

That follows a Request for Interest (RFI) that came out last summer and garnered tremendous attention, with scores of responses with some very unique ideas. Those ideas included everything from kayak rentals to ice skating and rock climbing in the dry dock.

McGuinness and Erikk Hokenson said the next step in that process will be the RFP. Just because one did not submit in the RFI stage does not mean they cannot submit to the RFP stage.

“The really good news is we’re going to the next step on an RFP,” said Hokenson. “That will give us more details on the business plans and finances of some of these ideas. We’re not going to preclude new people from filing. New people who did not put in for the RFI can apply for the RFP.”

McGuinness said they hope to have some sort of new activation in place by the summer of 2018.

  • In other news, it was reported that Building 108 in the Navy Yard has been scheduled for demolition.
  • The Tugboat ‘Luna’ will be the newest nautical entry into the Navy Yard’s tourist attractions starting next spring. Luna is currently in Chelsea and has been restored painstakingly with an investment of more than $1 million. Luna is one of just three diesel electric tugboats left in the country. Its usage dates from the 1920s and 1930s and is an historic landmark.

The BPDA announced they have entered into a lease agreement with the non-profit restoration group, and it will be on display at Pier 3.

“We’ve entered into a licensing agreement and lease with the Luna,” said McGuinness. “The plan is to dock her at Pier 3. We’re excited about it and we’re looking at the logistics and requirements for the docks they need to put it in place.”

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