Open letter to Mayor Martin J. Walsh
Hope you are well. As I am sure you know, our neighborhood’s passionate efforts over the past years to have meaningful input into responsible and needed development in our West End has not resulted in a positive outcome with the Equity Garden Garage project.
In my opinion, it is proceeding without any willingness on the developer’s part to negotiate some reasonable compromise with the community. Today, the Zoning Commissioners all sympathized with us but, except for Chairman Fondren (and we thank him), went ahead and voted to move the project forward.
So we will add to our now-virtual construction zone with the tallest West End building yet (a terrible precedent) and even more luxury rental apartments *with less than 1-percent affordable housing onsite but no workforce housing*.
Add to that five levels of underground rental parking for employees of nearby institutions, increasing the already congested traffic in our neighborhood.
While we have applauded and supported the major dense and high projects underway in our West End’s commercial areas (Boston Garden, Government Center Garage, Avalon North Station, Bulfinch Triangle development, etc.), we have been unsuccessfully trying to tell anyone in the city who might listen that this project is not good as currently designed for our neighborhood.
We understand density and height is the current thinking about the wave of the future and have been willing to negotiate something reasonable for everyone. But we have been continually ignored in the face for inclusionary housing elsewhere in the city by a developer who has consistently and refused to compromise with neighborhood residents.
I would have thought you, as our people’s mayor, would be as insulted and outraged about this as we are, but I guess it does not matter to you after all what we little people think about the neighborhood we know and love better than anyone else.
The purpose of this letter is to tell you that it is continually made clear to our West End residents that we do not *meaningfully* exist as far as you are concerned and as far as other city officials are concerned.
Something as minor as repeated invitations by us common folk to visit our West End so we could show you why we care about appropriate development are dismissed easily with promises to follow up, even when the invitation is made directly to you.
Invitations to Brian Golden are received warmly by him, but the only time he ever showed up was to apologize to us for the “urban renewal mistakes of the past” and to reassure us it would not happen again.
That was followed shortly after by the Equity project being pushed through to approval by his BRA even in light of all the neighborhood cries for some reasonable solution to just putting up another massive glass box of transient, luxury, high rent apartments.
A “great” (not) tool for encouraging people to live and set down roots in our formerly diverse and somewhat affordable neighborhood! I guess the resulting transience and glut of luxury rentals will be the next “urban renewal mistake of the past” for our future generations to resolve.
From a neighborhood engagement perspective, you must also know that we are not even included in something as obvious as your annual coffee hour meet-and-greet with our city’s neighborhoods. Take a look at the schedule for at least the past two years and you will see that you visit every single neighborhood surrounding us except for the West End!! Now there is the real message again I guess.
You know, it’s not the free plant that you give out at these coffee hours that we want, it’s something more genuine — your caring enough to be inclusive not only with housing but inclusive by recognizing and caring about our West End neighborhood and its residents.
Perhaps when you make your annual visit to one of the Downtown North Association’s business meetings, we residents could attend to get a glimpse of you and maybe even extract another promise to visit our neighborhood.
It’s all really just another sad tale of politics as usual for West Enders.
Kathleen M. Ryan
I was disappointed to see a major factual error in the Beacon Hill Times’ story from last week, “FOPG Opposes 355-foot Tremont Street Building.” The 171 Tremont project, which I am developing, is currently proposed for a height of 212 feet (235 including mechanical components), not 355. This height is slightly taller than some of the project’s neighbors, like the Parkside residential building, but shorter than the nearby Tremont on the Common complex. It is in harmony with the variety of building heights prevalent on this stretch of Tremont Street. By contributing to the rich architecture of the area in a seamless and aesthetically attractive way, it exemplifies the kind of thoughtful, exciting development we should be welcoming in Boston.
When the project was first proposed almost two years ago, it was in fact slated to be built to a height of 355’. However, our team listened to nearby residents, who were concerned about the impact such a building might have on the neighborhood, and we acted to eliminate those concerns. The project’s height was reduced, first to 255’, and now again to 212’, where it remains.
The Times’ story also included a suggestion from the Friends of the Public Garden that the 171 Tremont project is out of compliance with the 1990 Shadow Law which established a “shadow bank” for buildings to cast shadows on the Boston Common. In fact, this building utilizes the shadow bank in exactly the manner intended by the law’s authors. And the project’s recent height revisions, coupled with some architectural tweaks, have actually reduced its shadow impact by 41% compared to its first version, a significant decrease.
This behavior- one of responsiveness to community concerns and a willingness to compromise- is exactly the kind of effort that Boston residents should welcome. The development team for 171 Tremont should be commended for its willingness to reduce the scope of its project in response to the community, and the Beacon Hill Times should let its readers know that the project’s height is much lower than its story suggested and well within the bounds of the Tremont Street corridor.
Developer, 171 Tremont