Advocacy Update: Winthrop Square Enters Next Chapter

BC Parkman Bandstand

 

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 Home Rule Petition Boston City Council

An Act Protecting Sunlight and Promoting Economic Development in the City of Boston

ORDERED:  That a petition to the General Court, accompanied by a bill for a special law relating to the City of Boston to be filed with an attested copy of this Order be, and hereby is, approved under Clause One (1) of Section Eight (8) of Article Two (2), as amended, of the Amendments to the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, to the end that legislation be adopted precisely as follows, except for clerical or editorial changes of form only:

PETITION FOR A SPECIAL LAW RE: AN ACT PROTECTING SUNLIGHT AND PROMOTING ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT IN THE CITY OF BOSTON.

SECTION 1.  Subsection (b) of section 2 of chapter 362 of the Acts of 1990 is hereby amended by striking out the words “, subject to the one-acre exclusion set forth in the second sentence of subsection (c).”

SECTION 2.  Subsection (c) of section 2 of chapter 362 of the Acts of 1990 is hereby amended by striking out the second sentence thereof.

SECTION 3.  Section 2 of chapter 362 of the Acts of 1990 is hereby further amended by inserting after subsection (c) the following subsection:-

(d) Any structure located on property owned by the City of Boston on January first, two thousand and sixteen and located west of Federal Street, south of Franklin Street, east of Devonshire Street, and north of the intersection of High Street and Summer Street, which structure casts a new shadow upon the Boston Common for not more than two hours after the later of seven o’clock in the morning or the first hour after sunrise.

SECTION 4.  Section 2 of chapter 384 of the Acts of 1992 is hereby amended by striking out the word “or” in the last line of subsection (b).

SECTION 5.  Section 2 of chapter 384 of the Acts of 1992 is hereby further amended by striking out the period in the last line of subsection (c) and inserting in place thereof a semicolon and the word “or.”

SECTION 6.  Section 2 of chapter 384 of the Acts of 1992 is hereby further amended by inserting after subsection (c) the following subsection:-

(d) Any structure located on property owned by the City of Boston on January first, two thousand and sixteen and located west of Federal Street, south of Franklin Street, east of Devonshire Street, and north of the intersection of High Street and Summer Street, which structure casts a new shadow upon the Public Garden for not more than forty-five minutes after the later of seven o’clock in the morning or the first hour after sunrise.

SECTION 7. As used in section 7 and section 8 of this act the following words shall have the following meanings:

“Article 48,” Article 48 of the Boston Zoning Code as it existed on March first, two thousand and seventeen.

“New shadow,” the casting of a shadow at any time on an area which is not cast in shadow at such time by a structure which exists or for which a building permit has been granted on the date upon which application is made to the permit-granting authority for a proposed structure and which would not be cast in shadow by a structure conforming to as-of-right height limits allowed by the Boston Zoning Code as in force on March first, two thousand and seventeen. New shadow shall not include a de minimis shadow cast by an antenna, fence, flagpole, sign or other similar structure.

“Permit granting authority,” the Boston Zoning Board of Appeal, the Boston Zoning Commission, the Boston Redevelopment Authority or other public body authorized to grant permits or approvals pursuant to chapter 121A or chapter 121B of the General Laws, chapter 665 of the acts of 1956, as amended, of the Boston Zoning Code. Permit granting authority shall not include the Boston Inspectional Services Department, or any body or department succeeding in the duties thereof.

“Copley Square Park,” the land in the City of Boston bounded by Boylston Street, Clarendon Street, St. James Avenue, and Dartmouth Street, excluding land occupied by Trinity Church, and under the care, custody management and control of the city Parks and Recreation Commission.

“Structure,” a structure, as defined in the Massachusetts state building code, which is: (i) intended to be permanent; and (ii) not located within the boundaries of Copley Square Park.

SECTION 8. Notwithstanding any provisions of chapter 121A or chapter 121B of the General Laws, or chapter 665 of the acts of 1956, or any other general or special law to the contrary, no permit granting authority shall take any action which would authorize the construction of any structure within the Stuart Street District established by Article 48 which would cast a new shadow for more than two hours from eight o’clock in the morning through two-thirty in the afternoon on any day from March twenty-first to October twenty-first, inclusive, in any calendar year, on any area of Copley Square Park.

SECTION 9. The Boston Redevelopment Authority shall conduct a planning initiative for downtown Boston for an area including, but not limited to, the Midtown Cultural District established by Article 38 of the Boston Zoning Code and that area of the city known as the Financial District.  The initiative shall be conducted in partnership with the community to examine the preservation, enhancement, and growth of downtown Boston in order to balance growth with livability while respecting the importance of sunlight, walkability, and a dynamic mix of uses. The initiative shall culminate in a report that must include, but need not be limited to, recommendations concerning: development guidelines to facilitate predictable and appropriate development and community benefits; balancing area enhancement with the needs of existing residents, businesses and property owners; historic preservation; impacts of development on the environment, open space, and public realm, specifically including shadow impacts; and adaptability to the risks associated with climate change. The planning initiative shall commence within six months of the date of the passage of this act, and the Boston Redevelopment Authority shall publish the report on the planning initiative within three years from the passage of this act.

SECTION 10.  This act shall take effect upon its passage.

 

Shadow Legislation Summary

Downloadable Copy: Shadow Legislation Summary.pdf

FOPG

Shadow Legislation Summary
12
3016

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
12
3016

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”

Shadows and our Parks

A typical fall day on Boston Common
A fall afternoon on Boston Common

Dear Friends,

We have heard from our members expressing concerns about the Winthrop Square development proposal, and asking about the Friends’ position regarding the protection of our parks from shadows, in light of recent press about this proposal.  While comments from the Friends have been included in some articles, with varying accuracy, we want you to know that we stand firm  in our commitment to protect our parks from any weakening of existing  shadow laws.

The shadows from the proposed 750-foot tall project in Winthrop Square would reach as far as Commonwealth Avenue Mall and violate the current shadow legislation. The Friends of the Public Garden has consistently advocated for protecting our parks from excessive shadow and wind resulting from development projects that would harm these vital and historic greenspaces in the heart of Boston.

As you know, in 1990, the Friends worked with elected officials and the Boston Redevelopment Authority to draft and enact legislation to protect the Boston Common and Public Garden from damaging new shadows. This shadow protection has worked as intended – it has successfully protected our parks, while allowing robust development to continue in the city. Now, 25 years later, we are facing a new generation of buildings that challenge our  parks.

We believe that we need a comprehensive solution to downtown development projects that threaten to cast shadows on the parks and do not conform to the current legislation. We are meeting with the BPDA, gathering information, and seeking answers to unresolved questions about the project.

If you want to make your voice heard, please contact your state elected officials (Byron RushingJoe BoncoreAaron Michlewitz, William Brownsberger and Jay Livingstone) and Boston City Councilors (Michelle  WuAnnissa Essabi George,  Tito JacksonMichael Flaherty,  Bill LinehanJosh ZakimAyanna Pressley, and Sal LaMattina) directly to express your concern  about any potential changes to the state shadow laws that would reduce the  shadow protection that has existed successfully for 25 years.

Help us protect the Boston Common, Public Garden, and Commonwealth  Avenue Mall.  Together we can ensure the healthy future of our parks.

Sincerely,
Liz Vizza
Executive Director, Friends of the Public Garden