Millennium Partners has been approved to build a tower on the former site of the Winthrop Square Garage.Though the garage itself was not historically significant, the site at Winthrop Square joins the Financial District and Downtown Crossing in historic downtown Boston and is near a number of historically significant sites, buildings, and landscapes. The building will have a range of impacts from the pedestrian realm to the skyline and has therefore undergone review and scrutiny by the City, the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA), neighbors and abutters, and organizations like the Alliance. However, it received a certificate of compliance from the Mass. Secretary of Environment (MEPA Certificate) that was contingent on completion of Consultation with the Mass. Historical Commission, which is still in process.
In the summer of 2016 six development teams presented proposals to purchase and redevelop the City-owned Winthrop Square garage site. Ultimately, the proposal by Millennium Partners was selected and the process of reviewing the specific project began. The Alliance publicly opposed a change in state law that was necessary to facilitate a tower on this site. The purpose of the law was to protect our historic open space (Boston Common and Public Garden) from shadow and intrusive development and we felt that changing state law to facilitate one project was inappropriate and poor precedent. The law was successfully changed, however, and the Alliance engaged with the proposal as it evolved over time. Through several public meetings, comment letters, and meetings with the project team, the Alliance was able to express concerns about the impacts of the tower on historic resources and move towards mitigation efforts with the proponent which are ongoing.
Highlights from activity log:
May 18, 2018
Alliance Executive Director attends BPDA Board hearing and testifies in support of the project, noting support is dependent on the proposed Preservation Fund and that dialogue with the Massachusetts Historical Commission continues. The project is unanimously approved.
April 30, 2018
Alliance Board member and IAG member attends BCDC meeting and shares that the project got approved contingent upon returning to the Commission for further consideration of the plans for the Great Hall interior and programming and the design of Winthrop Square Park.
April 17, 2018
Alliance attends BCDC design review meeting.
April 10, 2018
Alliance staff attends BCDC design review meeting.
March 23, 2018
The Alliance’s subcommittee meets with the project team to discuss the most recent changes made to the project. The Alliance expresses concerns for Winthrop Square, Winthrop Lane, and the Tontine Crescent. They discuss the project paying into a city-wide historic preservation fund to offset the impact of the development on historic resources. The concept of this being an ongoing fund for development is discussed.
March 19, 2018
Alliance submits a comment letter to the BPDA responding to the Draft Project Impact Report (DPIR).
February 16, 2018
A subcommittee of the Alliance’s Board of Directors meets to discuss the project and possible strengths and weaknesses.
February 12, 2018
Alliance staff attends a public meeting for the project where substantial support for the project is expressed. There are questions about massing and density, traffic, and the status of the downtown planning study.
February 6, 2018
Alliance staff monitor the discussion at a Boston Civic and Design Commission meeting.
January 30, 2018
The project team gives a presentation to the Alliance’s Board of Directors. Board members ask questions regarding the public realm around the project, the Paul Rudolph building, etc.
January 22, 2018
Alliance staff attends BPDA scoping session.
December 22, 2017
Alliance staff meets with Millennium Partners and project team to discuss details of the proposed project.
June 27, 2017
Alliance Executive Director testifies at hearing in strong opposition to H.3749… opposition to the change in the law, not specifically to the project, for which many details remain unknown. The Act is ultimately approved.
Alliance prepares for hearing at the Joint Committee on Municipalities and Regional Government for H.3749 An Act Protecting Sunlight and Promoting Economic Development in the City of Boston.
Alliance staff has many conversations including with State legislators and reporters from the New York Times.
April 27, 2017
After Boston City Council votes in favor of the Home Rule Petition, Alliance Executive Director, Greg Galer, and Liz Vizza of the Friends of the Public Garden appear on Boston Neighborhood Network News to discuss.
April 24, 2017
Alliance Executive Director testifies at the City Council Hearing that the Home Rule Petition is both premature (not enough information known about the project) and ill-conceived (a terrible precedent allowing developers to buy their way out of laws.)
April 10, 2017
The City of Boston proposes a Home Rule Petition to change the state law in order to accommodate a tower at the Winthrop Square site. If approved, this would eliminate the small remainder of the shadow bank, a tool to facilitate some limited development that casts shadow on the Boston Common and Public Garden during specified times and seasons. However eliminating the shadow bank does not mean that no future shadow can be created by new development.
February 8. 2017
Alliance staff attends BCDC hearing and provides public comment regarding the impacts to historic resources and concerns over the process, questioning whether projects should be vetted by this Commission and others when state law currently prohibits the project.
Alliance Executive Director speaks with Kathy MacNeil of Millennium Partners about our position before submitting public comment. Comment submitted to BPDA.
January 6, 2017
Alliance staff attends public open house and speaks with several members of the community.
December 7, 2016
Alliance staff attends Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) scoping session where project goals and processes are outlined. Alliance staff asks about skyview since the daylight analysis that is required by the BPDA is not particularly helpful. David Carlson of the BPDA responds that they aim to upgrade the 30-year-old modeling software they are currently using.
December 5, 2016
Alliance staff and Board members meet with the Millennium Partners team to discuss the proposed project. Shadows on the Boston Common and Public Garden are discussed.
Alliance staff attends public meeting at Suffolk Law School where it was standing-room only. Most in attendance opposed the project, many because of the violation of the state shadow law.
The Alliance’s Board of Directors discusses the project and anticipated appeal to change state shadow laws.
The Alliance communicates with DOCOMOMO and other advocates for mid-century modern architecture about the proposals for Winthrop Square, particularly the possibility of demolition of the 1960 Blue Cross/Blue Shield building by Paul Rudolph which abuts the project site.