Say Bye-Bye to Pier 5: BPDA says it Cannot be Saved, Could Fall in Soon

Any hopes of importing a South Boston ‘Lawn On D’ style park on Pier 5 in the Navy Yard have been dashed this week after Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) officials told neighbors that the pier is not salvageable and, also, very expensive to demolish.

The BPDA and the community now sit at quite a conundrum as Pier 5’s underwater supports are extremely deteriorated, it cannot be used for any purposes (not even walking), and it is likely too expensive to demolish.

“The bad news tonight is we have done extensive investigations since last year with marine divers on Pier 5,” said BPDA’s Devin Quirk. “They looked at the pilings and the steel and the pier was condemned. The situation was worse than we thought. There’s nothing we can do to salvage it.”

BPDA Director Brian Golden said that the cost to demolish the pier would be $5 million, and a plan to make it a passive walking park would cost $16 million.

The BPDA’s Rich McGuinness said 10 years ago, a study to get the pier ready for development revealed it would cost $19 million. He said that cost is likely now well into the $25 million range.

Golden said the Pier is in danger of falling in if something isn’t done – and that could come in one month or in five years. One of the major issues is that the piers were built during war-time, meaning that the steel used in them was rationed. Instead of being solid with clear welds, they are more hollow, causing serious deterioration.

“I think we have a serious environmental problem, and if so, you should move quicker than expected,” said Ivey St. John.

Golden agreed, but indicated there are some big hurdles.

One thing that has been bantered around is the potential floating development for the Pier 5 area. That plan has been shopped around for several years in the Navy Yard by a Boston developer. The plan would be to put housing on a floating platform that would rise and fall with the tides. It has some support as it would not impede views at Flagship Wharf.

Golden said something like that could play a role in the solution, but it is a difficult path, a new type of development and one that would be costly.

“We don’t have it in front of us and there is no plan filed with us to remove the pier and build a floating platform,” he said. “We have heard of a residential proposal there. We have no opinion on that now…We think having something here in place of a disastrous, crumbling pier is interesting.”

He said the proponent has not met with them yet, but has been meeting with some in the Navy Yard.

BPDA officials said an RFP would have to go out first as Pier 5 is public land and there would have to be a public process.

“We understand it’s an extreme challenge with the state regulatory process and our process,” he said. “It would be a very serious and rigorous challenge for anything, but we need to know what to do with it. We can’t let it fall into the ocean, but we don’t have $16 million either.”

Other News and Notes:

  • Several sinkholes have shown up in the Navy Yard recently, and the BPDA’s Dick Mulligan said they are a result of culverts collapsing that serviced the drydock. Many of the sinkholes have gotten bigger and bigger, and there needs to be some major work to fix the culverts so that more don’t pop up. The matter has become more serious with the higher tides that have inundated the Yard over the last year.
  • A bevy of new trees on A Street have been killed due to poisoning by dog urine. Apparently, the trees were planted not long ago, and with the large numbers of dogs urinating on them, they were all killed at the roots. A new species has been identified and will be planted there again, this time with some protections from dogs. Residents are urged not to let their dogs urinate on the trees in the Navy Yard, particularly the new ones.
  • The Marina at Pier 6 is still being delayed due to Chapter 91 licensing issues and plans for the HarborWalk. Chuck and Ann LaGasse have been playing a waiting game for a few years on the project after successfully re-developing the Charlestown Marina in the Navy Yard. Mulligan said the state Department of Environmental Protection agreed to accept the plans when submitted with no further regulatory processes.
  • There is no shortage of controversy when it comes to whether or not to purchase of the of the ‘Big Dog’ art pieces. The BPDA has proposed buying one of the large dogs – which were on exhibit in the Navy Yard last summer – and placing there permanently. Some did not like the idea, particularly if it was in Shipyard Park. The BPDA indicated they were looking more closely at locating any ‘Big Dog’ in Menino Park by the Spaulding.
  • Veterans from an association representing Vietnam veterans from Massachusetts still Missing In Action (MIA) have asked the BPDA if they might place their memorial – including all of the names of those MIA – in Shipyard Park. Currently, there is a memorial at the Essex County House of Corrections that was paid for and is maintained by the prisoners there. However, it isn’t accessible to the families and friends of those who are MIA. A replica about six-feet-tall has been made and would potentially be placed on the edge of the green space in Shipyard.

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