Officials Outline Legislation to Allow New Shadow from Winthrop Square Tower

January 29, 2017
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By Beth Treffeisen

If passed, the proposed 750 foot building slated for the Winthrop Square Garage could be the last to cast additional shadows on the Boston Common and Public Garden downtown.

The Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) proposed a plan to push legislation that would allow the building to use up the rest of the shadow bank, which is currently reserved for buildings only in the Midtown Cultural District. The Winthrop Square site sits two blocks away from the designated zone.

The current Shadow Laws created the shadow bank for new buildings in the Midtown Cultural District of one acre from which the City can allow developers to withdraw for shadows cast for longer than the two-hour exemption.

Just over a quarter of an acre is all that remains in the Shadow Bank today, according to the Friends of the Public Garden.

The Millennium Ritz development on Avery Street, which is in the Midtown Cultural District, already casts new shadows of more than two hours drawing .72 of an acre from the shadow bank, according to Friends of the Public Garden.

“With every new development that asks for new shadow we ask is this shadow bank worthy?” said Brian Golden the director of the BPDA. “No one is entitled to anything.”

In regards to possible new development in the future he said that they don’t know what is front of them but they do know what they have in front of them now and it has tremendous benefits.

The City has earmarked $102 million in proceeds from the sale of Winthrop Square Garage, which they are expected to receive in 2017. The City upon the closing of the sale will receive an additional $51 million.

“Shadow is important – it absolutely is,” said Golden. “It has real spiritual affects on the Common. We talked to stakeholders surrounding the new shadow and we believe the cost-benefit ratio is worth it. A whole lot of people benefit from it.”

Sara Myerson the director of planning at the BPDA said that is important to continue to be stewards of the open spaces in Boston and that they have evaluated the arrangement.

“It feels like the right trade-off,” said Myerson.

Since the land being sold is city property all of the benefits will go straight back to the city. Going forward Golden said there is a lot of uncertainly where funding will come from.

“We are proceeding under the assumption that we’re going to have to be very creative with affordable housing creating the funding for low-income and moderate income homes,” said Golden. “That means trying to get more than just the bare minimum out of the developers.”

Christopher Cook the Commissioner of Boston Parks and Recreation said that some of the additional funds from the additional $51 million would go towards creating a trust fund for maintenance fund for the parks.

He said it would take $60 million to replace everything that needs to replaced or repaired in Boston’s public parks.

“We do think this is an incredible opportunity for investment in these parks,” said Cook.

The BPDA also said they plan on doing additional zoning in hot-economic hubs around the city including the downtown area. Golden says he hopes by making a plan it would help ease some of the concerns that residents downtown have about the fast-paced development happening.

For places they don’t have a plan set they do believe that the Article 80 process is a robust way to get community feedback incorporated in the plan.

In regards to a citywide plan Golden said, “That would take an enormous sum of money and lot of time.”

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