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.”

Winthrop Square Shadows and Impacts on the Parks

Sunlight-Sensitive Park Resources and Shadow Impacts

  1. Sunlight-sensitive park resources are those resources which are dependent on sunlight to maintain the overall usability and/or health of a park space, whether it be for human activity or horticultural needs.
  1. As the city develops, the extent and duration of shadows cast increases. Direct sunlight exposure becomes all the more important as a resource for people and nature, particularly in the city’s central greenspaces, the Boston Common and Public Garden, which are used by millions of people each year as places to relax, gather with the community, walk to work, and recreate.
  1. In considering the impact of shadows on these parks, it is necessary to assess how they affect the growth cycle and sustainability of the parks’ natural features, as well as the comfort and enjoyment of their users.
  1. The issue of human use and comfort is particularly important during the cold winter months when there is less available sunlight, especially during morning and afternoon commuting hours, when thousands of people pass through these parks daily. Human-related sunlight-sensitive resources during the warm months include use of the wading pool at the Frog Pond in the Common and the lagoon and Swan Boats in the Garden.

Horticulture and Shadow Impacts

  1. Trees and turf need 4 – 6 hours of direct sunlight.
  1. Less sunlight = less photosynthesis = less energy for trees and turf to grow
  1. Full day and yearlong analysis of cumulative shadows show that the Common and Garden are under significant shadow pressure
  1. The Tremont and Boylston edges of the parks in particular experience significant shadow pressure
  1. When trees and turf are in the shadows of buildings, soil surface temperatures may not reach normal levels.
  1. A lag time in warmth, and a shaded condition that can keep soil wetter, favor disease development. This is a contributing factor in the root rot some trees have suffered in the Garden, and the decline and removal of trees in the Tremont/Boylston corner of the Common
  1. Shade impacts the success of seed growth, with colder soil temperatures slowing and shortening their growing period.
  1. Grass is less tolerant of shade than trees. It is easy to grow grass, and easy to kill grass.

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

 

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”