Advocacy Update: Winthrop Square Enters Next Chapter

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Winthrop Square Exemption is Passed 

Dear Friends,

On Monday, July 24, the State Legislature passed and sent to Governor Baker’s desk H. 3749, a home-rule petition filed by Mayor Walsh to exempt Millennium Partner’s planned 775-foot luxury condo tower at Winthrop Square from two state laws passed in the early 1990s to shield the Boston Common and Public Garden from new building shadows.

Throughout our 47 years as guardians of the Boston Common, Public Garden, and Commonwealth Avenue Mall, the Friends has been a steadfast and vocal advocate for the protection and enhancement of our three treasured parks. As you know, since last fall we have expressed deep concerns about the impact the Winthrop Square development would have on our parks and the prospect of it becoming a blueprint for future exemptions from the state laws that have protected the Common and Garden while allowing development to continue in downtown Boston. We acknowledge, however, that the City Council, with its 10-3 vote in favor of the home rule petition, spoke with a clear voice. The Governor is expected to sign the bill into law.

While we lost the battle to prevent this exemption from the state laws, we have succeeded in negotiating important commitments through our discussions with the Mayor’s office, the Boston Planning and Development Authority, and Millennium. The City has committed to a comprehensive planning study for Downtown, which is sorely needed if Boston’s development is to be guided by a broad perspective about what we need to preserve as we grow as a city, and not address one building at a time. The City has also committed to develop a master plan for the Common that will involve a robust public process. The Friends will actively partner with the Parks Department in this planning process, which will guide the spending priorities for the $28 million slated to come to that park. Of the $28 million, $5 million will be set aside in a trust that will be used to fund maintenance of the Common. The Friends will appoint one of three trustees along with appointments by the district City Councilor and the Mayor.  In addition, Millennium has agreed to make an annual contribution of $125,000 for 40 years to a special fund managed and overseen by The Boston Foundation that will be used for the maintenance and enhancement of the Boston Common, Public Garden, and Commonwealth Avenue Mall.

These agreements provide a consequential and much-needed infusion of capital for the Common, Boston’s most heavily used park, as well as an annual revenue stream to help mitigate the impact of the shadows cast by Winthrop Square on the three parks. We will be an important voice in planning for the future of Downtown that protects the very greenspaces that make Boston so livable and desirable.

As this new chapter opens, we remain, as always, steadfast guardians of the Common, the Garden, and the Mall. We plan to remain deeply involved in ongoing environmental and Article 80 reviews related to the Winthrop Square building, as well as in ensuring that this statutory exemption remains – as Mayor Walsh has pledged – a one-time exception to the Shadow Laws. We will vigorously oppose any further encroachment of shadows on these landmark parks beyond this one exemption.

We want to publicly thank our state representatives – Jay Livingstone, Aaron Michlewitz, and Byron Rushing – and our state senators – Will Brownsberger and Joe Boncore – for their invaluable assistance throughout the legislative process.  We also want to acknowledge the support of our City Councilor, Josh Zakim, City Councilor Tito Jackson, and City Council President Michelle Wu.

While we would have preferred that City officials had seen the wisdom of standing firm against any deviation from the state laws that have served the parks and downtown development so well for over 25 years, we appreciate that the process fostered a productive dialogue with Mayor Walsh, and we want to thank him for hearing our concerns. We look forward to continuing to work together with the City to protect and enhance our irreplaceable greenspaces in the decades ahead.

Sincerely,

Leslie S. Adam, Chair, Board of Directors
Elizabeth Vizza, Executive Director

 

Elizabeth Vizza Statement on Winthrop Square Vote

Statement by Elizabeth Vizza, Executive Director of the Friends of the Public Garden on Boston City Council vote to approve shadow law exemptions for Winthrop Square tower.

April 26, 2017 – “The Council’s action today sets a precedent for future tradeoffs of money from developers for city approval of luxury skyscrapers that will cause damage to our landmark parks. It is naive to think that another developer won’t put millions of dollars on the table to entice the city into more exemptions to allow more shadows and cause more damage.

As stewards of the Boston Common and the Public Garden for the past 47 years, we have deep knowledge of the stresses on them. We find it disingenuous of the city to disregard our concerns and minimize the impact this building will have.

We support the revitalization of the Winthrop Square Garage site, but the proposed 775-foot skyscraper violates the shadow laws 264 days of the year on the Boston Common, and 120 days on the Public Garden.

The state’s shadow laws have worked for nearly three decades to strike an appropriate balance between allowing development to continue and protecting the Boston Common and the Public Garden. We will take our case to the State House to ensure this balance will not be jeopardized.”

Make your voice heard: Contacting elected officials

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Below is the list of emails (formatted so you can copy and paste) and phone numbers of the elected officials, City Councilors, and the Mayor.

Mayor Marty Walsh                          617-635-4500      mayor@boston.gov

State elected officials:

Byron Rushing 617-722-2783 byron.rushing@mahouse.gov
Joe Boncore 617-722-1634 joseph.boncore@masenate.gov
Aaron Michlewitz 617-722-2220 aaron.michlewitz@mahouse.gov
William Brownsberger 617-722-1280 william.brownsberger@masenate.gov
Jay Livingstone 617-722-2396 jay.livingstone@mahouse.gov

Boston City Councilors:

Michelle Wu 617-635-3115 michelle.wu@boston.gov
Frank Baker 617-635-3455 frank.baker@boston.gov
Andrea Campbell 617-635-3131 andrea.campbell@boston.gov
Mark Ciommo 617-635-3113 mark.ciommo@boston.gov
Annissa Essabi George 617-635-4376 a.e.george@boston.gov
Michael Flaherty 617-635-4205 michael.f.flaherty@boston.gov
Tito Jackson 617-635-3510 tito.jackson@boston.gov
Sal LaMattina 617-635-3200 salvatore.lamattina@cityofboston.gov
Bill Linehan 617-635-3203 bill.linehan@cityofboston.gov
Timothy McCarthy 617-635-4210 timothy.mccarthy@boston.gov
Matt O’Malley 617-635-4220 matthew.omalley@boston.gov
Ayanna Pressley 617-635-4217 ayanna.pressley@boston.gov
Josh Zakim 617-635-4225 josh.zakim@boston.gov

 

Shadow Legislation Summary

Downloadable Copy: Shadow Legislation Summary.pdf

FOPG

Shadow Legislation Summary
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Two State laws in place for the past quarter of a century have effectively protected Boston’s signature public parks from excessive shadowing, while still allowing for robust downtown development. The Friends of the Public Garden steadfastly supports these effective laws and opposes any erosion of these protections.

Boston Common Shadow Law (Ch. 362, 1990)

●   This State law restricts new shadows on the Common to the first hour after sunrise or 7:00 a.m. (whichever is later) or the last hour before sunset, with different exemptions for buildings in the Midtown Cultural District, which lies east and south of the Common and Garden (see the attached plan).

Continue reading “Shadow Legislation Summary”

Fact Sheet on Proposed Winthrop Square Tower

Downloadable Copy: Fact Sheet on Proposed Winthrop Square Tower.pdf

FOPGFact Sheet on Proposed Winthrop Square Tower
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The Proposed Tower Violates State Laws

●    The Friends of the Public Garden is committed to preserving sunlight and preventing shadow creep on the City’s landmark public parks, while also allowing development to continue in downtown Boston.

●    Millennium Partners’ proposed 775-foot Winthrop Square development is in violation of existing laws designed to protect Boston Common and the Public Garden from shadow creep. These laws, in effect for a quarter century, have protected the City’s signature public parks while allowing a robust level of development in downtown Boston.

●    If built, Winthrop Square Tower would cast a morning shadow stretching from Winthrop Square in the financial district, down the middle of Boston Common, through the heart of the Public Garden and onto the Commonwealth Avenue Mall – a distance of roughly one mile.

Continue reading “Fact Sheet on Proposed Winthrop Square Tower”

Advocacy Alert

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Shadows from 200 Clarendon, mid-afternoon December 2016

Dear Friends,

Now is the time to let the Boston Planning and Development Authority (BPDA) and your elected officials know your opinion about the Winthrop Square development proposal and the threat of shadows on our parks.

The deadline for BPDA public comment period on the Winthrop Square proposal is January 16, 2017 now extended to January 20, 2017.  Please email the Project Manager, Ms. Casey Hines, at casey.a.hines@boston.gov as well as call your elected officials including the City Council and the Mayor with your comments about shadows and our parks.

Individual messages are the most impactful, and please include your personal thoughts about these iconic parks.

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Shadows and our Parks: Make your voices heard

The last few weeks have seen a significant increase in publicity around the proposed Winthrop Square development and its potential impact on Boston Common and the Public Garden, with four articles in The Boston Globe alone. The more light shed on this potential dimming of our parks, the more people will understand the importance of this issue.

At the same time, there are comment opportunities and government actions between now and the end of January that we want you to be aware of. We are eager to engage with city and state officials, other organizations, the development community, and citizens like you as we strive to ensure good public policy that allows development while protecting our parks.

Continue reading “Shadows and our Parks: Make your voices heard”