Major New Warehouse and Processing Project Approved for S. Boston

The Massachusetts Port Authority yesterday selected a development team to build a $47 million waterfront project of warehouses and other facilities that could accommodate cold storage, bulk cargoes, and seafood processing at the Massport Marine Terminal in South Boston.

The winning proposal is consistent with Massport's goal of keeping Boston Harbor as "a working port," said spokeswoman Danny Levy, who added that the project could create 600 jobs.

The winning development team for the 26-acre site includes Cargo Ventures, Boston Freight Terminals, the Fallon Co., and New England Development, which is headed by Stephen R. Karp.

James M. Kelly, city councilor for South Boston, praised Massport's choice.

"This is something good," he said. "It works for the city. It works for the neighborhood. This is in keeping with the neighborhood's goal -- to have a working port that creates blue-collar jobs," some of which Kelly hopes will go to South Boston residents.

The site has sometimes been used to park imported cars shipped to Boston or to store dirt excavated by Big Dig workers.

Earlier this year, Massport's selection process generated some controversy. At one point, a metal recycling facility appeared to be the front-runner.

That possibility failed to attract widespread support from South Boston, where some residents worried that living near a recycling plant could be a health hazard, Kelly said at the time.

Massive development seems poised to transform South Boston's Seaport District. Last year, the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center opened there, and many ambitious projects to build hotels, office space, and housing are either under construction or being planned. In that context, a recycling plant seemed a bad fit at best and a potential eyesore at worst, some argued.

In March, Mayor Thomas M. Menino objected to the recycling facility proposal, saying that having a "junkyard" on Boston Harbor was an "ill-conceived plan." Massport quickly took the plan off the table.

The site is owned by the city but leased by Massport. The mayor's office did not return calls for comment on the winning proposal.

Massport now envisions three buildings with a total of 440,400 square feet, Levy said. One building would be for a warehouse and related office space, she said. Another could be allocated to cold storage and seafood processing. The third could be for storing bulk cargo.

Massport's board has yet to sign off on the final design, something likely to happen in September.

Levy said a ground-breaking is expected in the first quarter of 2006.