State Environmental Report Okays Winthrop Square Development

Secretary Matthew A. Beaton reviewed the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) of the 115 Winthrop Square project in downtown Boston, and determined that it adequately and properly complies with the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) and its implementing regulations. The decision was published on Friday, Feb. 16.

The decision was made despite analysis of wind, shadow and urban design showing an impact on historic resources in close proximity to the project site, including the Commercial Palace Historic District, Boston Common, Boston Public Garden and Beacon Hill Historic District.

The project has been revised since the Environmental Notification Form (ENF) was filed with the State and includes the construction of a 1,592,000-square-foot mixed-use high-rise building with a maximum height of 691 feet. The building will contain 500 residential units within a tower located on a podium comprised of retail, restaurants, and office uses.

The DEIR shows little difference from the lengthy Draft Impact Report released by the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) on January 2, 2018.

The construction of the project will commence in mid-2018 and initial occupancy is expected to occur in early 2022.

The DEIR outlined that the building will cast new shadow on 65 of 160 historic locations that were studied. Many of the shadow impacts are limited to the roofs of nearby buildings or to secondary elevations and not the primary facades.

The DEIR identified the following potential mitigation measures that will be finalized in coordination with the Massachusetts Historic Commission including: photographic documentation of the project site, its context, and the downtown Boston skyline prior to and after construction and construction monitoring of adjacent historic properties.

In addition, the developers Millennium Partners will make contributions of $125,000 per year for 40 years following completion of the project for maintenance and enhancement of the Boston Common and Public Garden.

This is on top of the contribution of $28 million for improvements to Boston Common and contribution of $11 million toward completion of the Emerald Necklace park system through a connection from Franklin Park to Moakley Park in South Boston.

The Massachusetts Historic Commission has indicated that the project will result in an “adverse effect” on the 65 historic resources identified through the introduction of new Net Shadow.  Also, the construction of the tower will introduce a new visual element, which will adversely affect the setting of numerous historic resources and districts.

In addition, Massport supports the new development project at 115 Winthrop Square stating that the height is in compliance with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and is consistent with the Logan Airspace Map.

“We concur with the FAA finding that a building in this location with the proposed maximum building heights would have no operational impacts on Boston Logan,” wrote Steward Dazell, deputy director of environmental planning and permitting at the Massachusetts Port Authority to the state. “It is important, however, that the maximum building heights reflect all rooftop mechanical/ HVAC units, signage, antenna, lighting, architectural features etc.”

Massport does expect that the tall crane(s) needed to construct the tower will impact Logan operations when they are at heights of greater than 710 feet AMSL (height above mean sea level). The developers will be required to file construction phase forms with the FAA to minimize the impact.

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