Harbor Towers
The Harbor Towers are two Brutalist-era forty-story residential towers located on the waterfront of the U.S. city of Boston, nestled between the New England Aquarium and the iconic Rowe's Wharf mixed use development. Harbor Towers I, the taller of the two towers, stands 400 feet (122 m), while Harbor Towers II rises 396 ft (121 m). The towers are the 26th and 28th-tallest buildings in Boston, respectively. Initially built as affordable rental housing, Harbor Towers's first residents arrived in 1971. While the modern looking towers offered unparalleled harborfront and city skyline views, the architectural style, with contributions from renowned architect I.M. Pei, was out of place in the provincial New England port city and the area surrounding the project was, at that time, a rough, dusty warehouse district with more surface parking lots per acre than any other area of the city. Once separated from the city's financial district by a two story elevated highway, and from its neighboring Italian-American North End by its isolated modern look and feel, the apartments felt distanced from the city. As the area surrounding the Towers developed into a focal point of the city, this once criticised pair of high rise buildings has become one of the city's most desirable addresses.

The Harbor Towers apartment complex was completed in 1971 by the Berenson Corporation, as an affordable housing option near Boston's financial district. Designed by Henry N. Cobb of I.M. Pei & Partners (now Pei Cobb Freed & Partners), who also designed Boston's John Hancock Tower and collaborated with Pei on Boston's City Hall Plaza, the towers are well known in the architectural community. At 40 stories, they are the city's tallest residential towers. A project sponsored by the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA), as a way to bring new life to Boston's waterfront, which was, at the time, a seedy, dusty area mostly made up of parking lots, the project became a cornerstone for future progress in the area. Originally planned with three 40-story towers, only two were built, along with a parking garage. The much derided design has garnered many critics in Boston for its "brutalist" architecture, a style that was argued to be inconsistent with historic Boston. In particular, the surrounding area includes sites such as the waterfront area and the North End, which is known for its Italian community and its preservation of 17th and 18th century architecture. As the growth of the city moved toward the waterfront, the unparalleled nature of the apartment tower's location and harbor and city views drew the attention of the " condominium conversion" craze of the early 1980s. In 1981, both apartment towers started the two year process of conversion to condominiums, with special incentives for renters to purchase at heavily discounted prices. Many of these early apartment renters now own several units, often combined to create breathtaking wrap-around units with as much as 5,000 square feet (464 square meters) of living space. Some of these "early adopters," now own multi-million dollar units, with as little as US$100,000 to $200,000 total investment. The newcomers buy units for between $600,000 to as much as $3,000,000, primarily for the spectacular harbor and city views but also for the location, which is less than three city blocks from the city's financial district. With the more recent development of the adjacent Rowes Wharf/ Boston Harbor Hotel, a landmark development of significant architectural and aesthetic significance to the city's skyline, as well as the expansion of the New England Aquarium, has made the twin towers even more desirable. The completion of the central artery project (The Big Dig), with its expansive necklace of greenspace, gardens, and public space, will make these now historic apartment buildings a central character in the most costly urban improvement project in U.S. history. The much-maligned towers have survived tremendous change along Boston's waterfront, and tenants who purchased homes early in the process have seen the largest increases in property values of any urban Boston location. A scandal broke out for the owners of Harbor Towers which recently learned that collectively they owe $75.6 million for replacing much of the buildings' main systems; some can't afford the assessment and are selling their units. The whopping assessments have bitterly divided residents into two camps: those who have faith in the condo's trustees and the experts hired to examine the systems' conditions, and those who do not. Dissenters question the need for the work, while supporters contend that additional delays will only make an expensive project more costly. The imposing towers with 624 units on the waterfront have been a premiere address for downtown dwellers, with the best views of the city and harbor, bar none. Over the decades, however, the towers have had minimal renovation. Now the bill for that has come due, with the electrical, ventilation, and heating and air-conditioning systems in need of repair or replacement. Since a 2002 report by R.G. Vanderweil Engineers LLP that documented corrosion on heating and cooling water pipes, the buildings' systems have been studied by multiple engineering firms and consultants.

The apartments are organized in a pinwheel fashion around a central core. They are made of cast in place concrete. The concrete balconies appear to be zipper like against the flat facade. The stainless steel sculpture at the base of the buildings is "Untitled Landscape" by David von Schlegell and was created in 1964. They are often mistaken for solar panels.

The towers are zoned to Boston Public Schools. For elementary and middle school, students may apply to:
  • Any school within the location's "assignment zone"
    • In this case, the North Zone
  • Any school within the location's "walk zone," regardless of the school's "assignment zone."
    • Eligible "walk zone" schools not citywide and not within the North Zone: Gavin Middle School
  • Any citywide elementary school, middle school, and K-8
All high schools are "citywide."


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