Eastat Office Tower Plan Would Spare Historic Boston Restaurant

Boston-based developer Eastat Realty Capital L.L.C. has submitted a notice of project change with the Boston Redevelopment Authority in connection with a proposed $140 million, 24-story, 248,000-square-foot office building in Boston’s theater district. To Bostonians, the point of the project, however, seems less what will be built than what won’t be coming down; the plan would leave the adjacent Jacob Wirth Co. building untouched.The historic Wirth building (pictured) was completed in 1844, and the German-style restaurant there was founded in 1868, making it the city’s second-oldest operating eatery. The restaurant was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. The previous development proposal, by Weston Associates would have put a 28-story building comprising a 108-room hotel, 181 residential units and 219 parking spaces on the site, but would have also required taking down part of the Wirth building. That plan came to nothing when Weston backed out. Eastat managing partner Eamon O’Marah told CPN that this project will be the first for his company, which is less than a year old and which he described as “veteran folks, new entity.” The current plan calls for the tower to be built on what is now a parking lot adjacent to the Wirth building. In addition to the office space, the development would include 170 parking spaces, and retail/restaurant space and a public winter garden on the first two floors. There will also be six roof gardens for environmental and aesthetic reasons. O’Marah told CPN that Eastat and Kevin Fitzgerald, the Wirth restaurant’s operator, executed a purchase agreement for the 26,000-square-foot site in January and will close on the sale next year. Although he noted that a large portion of the price has already been paid as a nonrefundable deposit, O’Marah declined to disclose the purchase price of the land or the arrangement under which Fitzgerald will continue to operate the restaurant. Eastat will seek financing once the project receives city approval. The company hopes to break ground next July and have the building finished by February 2011. O’Marah’s background is in architecture, city planning, commercial construction and real estate development. A graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, he formerly worked for Morse Diesel International and the Boston Redevelopment Authority. Eastat’s vice chairmen, both attorneys, are John Meshad and Dennis McGillicuddy. Meshad has engaged in development in the Atlanta and Sarasota, Fla., markets and has worked in banking and the restaurant business. McGillicuddy is an investor who has had interests in cable TV, investment banking, wastewater treatment, publishing and real estate. He is currently on the board of Franklin Street Properties Inc., a publicly traded REIT.