Mayor proposes deal on Winthrop Square tower, shadows

The Boston Globe | By Tim Logan
April 10, 2017

Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s efforts to get a skyscraper built on a city-owned property in the Financial District have been complicated by the amount of shadow the 750-foot building would cast on Boston Common and the Public Garden.

So the mayor is proposing a trade-off: Allow the tower to be built on Winthrop Square, but limit future development around the downtown’s few open spaces.

On Monday, Walsh is expected to file legislation with the Boston City Council that would change quarter-century-old laws governing how much shadow new buildings can cast on the two parks. It would effectively exempt the Winthrop Square proposal by Millennium Partners, but bar future projects from casting shadows on the Common and Public Garden.

The measure would also toughen city rules governing shadows from new construction on Copley Square and require a new zoning plan for development in Downtown Crossing and the Financial District.

Money is a big motivating factor for the Walsh administration. The city is due to receive $153 million from the sale of the Winthrop Square property to Millennium and has already pledged to spend the proceeds on Boston Common, Franklin Park, and other parks, and on renovations to public housing in East Boston and South Boston.

The economic benefit from the Millennium building “has been a really big piece of this conversation,” said the director of the Boston Planning & Development Agency, Brian Golden. “We’re focusing on fundamental benefits that flow to all the people of Boston.”

Walsh’s bid to change shadow rules also needs approval from the Legislature and Governor Charlie Baker.

While Winthrop Square is several blocks from the edge of the Common, models developed by Millennium Partners show the proposed tower casting shadows on the two parks for as long as 90 minutes in the morning at certain times of the year, reaching as far as the edge of the Commonwealth Avenue Mall, around three-quarters of a mile away.

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