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FAA Recommends Chop for Boston Tower

Monday, September 18, 2017

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Boston’s proposed Winthrop Square tower, which has been taking criticism for nearly a year over its 775-foot-tall plans, is getting a little taken off the top.

Renderings: Handel Architects

The tower’s height has caused turmoil in Boston, not just from the Massachusetts Port Authority (which came out in opposition of the tower last December) but also because of the shadows that the tower will likely cast on the Boston Common and Public Garden below.

After the Federal Aviation Administration issued a preliminary ruling late last month with a “notice of presumed hazard,” saying the height of the tower would be in the takeoff path of a main runway at Logan International Airport and that diverting planes would make the airport less efficient, developer Millennium Partners decided to nix about 75 feet.

Throwing Shade

The tower’s height has caused turmoil in Boston, not just from the Massachusetts Port Authority (which came out in opposition of the tower last December) but also because of the shadows that the tower will likely cast on the Boston Common and Public Garden below.

In April, the Boston Planning and Development Agency introduced legislation that exempted the tower from the state’s shadow laws, which limit the shadows cast onto those public green spaces.

The laws, which were enacted in the early 1990s, dictate that buildings in Winthrop Square could only cast shadows over the Boston Common and Public Garden during the first hour after sunrise or before 7 a.m. (whichever is later) or the last hour before sunset.

Under the 775-foot plan, Winthrop Tower, from Handel Architects, would cast shadows exceeding what’s currently allowable by law, for 282 days a year.

In April, the Boston Planning and Development Agency introduced legislation that exempted the tower from the state’s shadow laws, which limit the shadows cast onto those public green spaces.

The BPDA’s legislation proposed that Winthrop could exceed the height, but no other development could, effectively cementing a cap on the height of future developments. Despite heavy opposition, the legislation was passed by Gov. Charlie Baker in July.

Take Off

Millennium Partners has bought the parcel for $153 million—the highest bid—partially because it had planned for such a high tower. In April, the developer’s initial response to the MPA criticism was that they weren’t willing to compromise on the tower height.

“We feel this project was holistically designed at its optimum size in response to achieving the goals that the city required for this public asset,” a statement read.

However, the Partners then asked for the FAA review that recommended the new height. Principal Joe Larkin told the Boston Globe that they can live with the new 702-foot ceilings.

The ruling is not final, as the FAA now has to consider the new plan proposal—expected this fall—and hold a public comment period.

“We are appreciative of the agency’s guidance,” he said. “We will not be proposing a building that has any impact on the flight paths in or out of Logan International Airport.”

The ruling is not final, as the FAA now has to consider the new plan proposal—expected this fall—and hold a public comment period, which likely won’t be quiet.

Although taking 75 feet off the tower will likely reduce the shadow, there’s talk of expanding the tower’s width to make up for lost space, which could throw its own shade.

   

Tagged categories: Condominiums/High-Rise Residential; Laws and litigation

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