Not So Tall

By Beth Treffeisen

The developers behind the proposed Winthrop Square Tower that has caused controversy over the new shadows it would create over the historic parks downtown, has lowered the height from 775 feet to just above 700 feet to comply with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) guidance.

As part of the review process for the Winthrop Square project, Millennium Boston has received a Notice of Presumed Hazard from the FAA in regard to the height of the building.

This standard procedure said that any tower in excess of 702 feet could result in some diversion of flights under existing airport operations and would require further study.

“We’ve consulted at great length with Mayor Walsh and the Boston Planning and Development Agency, and we will not be proposing a building that has any impact on flight paths in or out of Logan International Airport,” said Joe Larkin from Millennium Boston.

In a comment letter released from Massport this past December 2016, it stated that a building at 115 Winthrop Square that is greater than 710 feet would lead airlines to shift departures from Runway 27 to Runway 33L.

Before the lowering of the proposed height, this potential increase in air traffic on Runway 33L  caused concern to the residents of East Boston, Everett, and Chelsea – whose communities already are impacted by Runway 33L and are  facing the blunt of the increasing airport traffic.

A statement from Massport, which is not the regulatory agency for building heights said, “At 702 feet (mean sea level) this is a good outcome for the communities and the traveling public.”

But, even though the height of the building may be shortened, the effects of the shadows on the downtown parks and neighborhoods will still be be affected. The final design is still in the works and could potentially widen the building to make up for the lost height on top.

“A shorter building is a positive development, but 702 feet still doesn’t prevent the shadow from extending across the parks at certain times of the day,” said Liz Vizza, the executive director of Friends of the Public Garden. “Now it appears Millennium may build the tower wider, and it’s unknown what the impacts of that would be.”

She continued, “The bottom line is that we still don’t really know what the final product will look like. The Friends will watch closely to ensure there is no erosion of protections for the parks, and we plan to be deeply involved as the Article 80 process for the Winthrop Square building progresses.”

The Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay (NABB) who has come out against the construction of this building also approves the reduction of height, however minor it might be.

“Any reduction in height resulting in reduced shadow would be an improvement we would welcome,” said Vicki Smith the President of NABB.

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