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Do You Support The Copley Place Expansion?

Despite months of protests from residents the Zoning Board gave it a stamp of approval, saying it's a great project for the neighborhood. Do you agree?

Despite , the Boston Zoning Commission unanimously approved plans for a 47-story tower with condominiums and retail space at Copley Place, paving the way for to start construction in the fall 2012.

Following a three-hour meeting heavily attended by those both supportive and opposed to the project, Chairman Bob Foundren called the building “elegant and sensitively designed for it’s location.”

“It is a tall building, but it’s not big and bulky…” he said. “It does the least damage on the site that a building could do, and it enlivens a section of this city that I think badly needs it.”

The $500 million expansion includes 70,000 square feet of new retail space, restaurant space and a public atrium, including 115,000 feet of expanded commercial space and a massive renovation to the existing Niemen Marcus department store.  A 47-story residential tower containing 318 units would take over the brick plaza at the corner of Dartmouth and Stuart streets and rise above the existing commercial building, becoming the tallest residential building in Boston at 625 feet.

The project is expected to create 1,700 construction jobs and 270 permanent jobs once completed. It will also generate approximately $7.2 million in annual property tax revenue.

“I’m not surprised,” said Ken Kruckemeyer, part of a group of about 80 residents who have protested the tower throughout the process, said of the approval. “The city is well wired, but we firmly think the legal issues are real.”

The group has brought up concerns about the length of shadows and amount of wind such a building would create, and what's allowed under the zoning, and called the luxury housing “non inclusive” and “segregating” to local residents.

Of the 318 residences, 48 will be affordable. The developer originally planned to construct only 10 on-site, but agreed to include the rest after hearing neighborhood concerns.

Residents also pushed Simon Property to expand its 15 percent affordable housing to 25 percent, saying a requirement from a 1980 grant should be honored “if not by law, then in spirit.”

Simon Property said the 99 lease it signed for air rights with the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority –  and approved before final recommendations had been submitted – contains many more obligations to the city.

The developers also provided a list of  “benefits” contingent with the project, including $1 million to support public art in the city, $1 million in traffic improvements, $250,000 to the Friends of Copley Square, and $250,000 to improve the section of the Southwest Corridor between Harcourt and Dartmouth Streets.

"I think it was the right decision," said Meg Maizner-Cohen, President of the and a member of the Citizen Advisory Committee - a diverse group of businesses representatives, residents and others involved with helping to establish the details of the project.

During 19 meetings she said she watched as developers responded to concerns, and believes it's in the best interest of the neighborhood and the city.

"It was a long community process," she said, "where I think every issue was aired."

protestfolk December 15, 2011 at 05:43 PM
Zoning Board's undemocratic decision to authorize Simon Properties to begin Manhattanizing Back Bay/South End with 600-feet-plus luxury residential skyscrapers appears to violate use restrictions of Copley Place project lease. Section 11.6 of the January 31, 1980 "Amended and Restated Lease" with UIDC of the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority indicates on page 39 that any reconstruction of the Copley Place project is "subject" to "the use restrictions of Section 6:12" regarding affirmative action in the allocation of both Copley Place project jobs and Copley Place project residential housing units. And in his Nov. 15, 2011 memorandum to William Tuttle, Deputy Director and Robin Blatt-Eisengat of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation and Office of Real Estate and Asset Development, Andrew Royce of Sherin and Lodgen LLP notes that "after the first 15 years, Tenant may" only "construct additional improvements subject to...non-discrimination and affirmative action requirements;" and that "Schedule C, entitled HOUSING, states, in part `The housing which Tenant will construct will include at least 100 units of mixed income housing' and `A minimum of 25% of the units must be available for rent at all times to persons and families of low-income.'
protestfolk December 15, 2011 at 05:51 PM
there's a video of a public domain protest folk song (from earlier in the year) about the proposed "Neiman Marcus Tower/Wintergarden" reconstruction of Copley Place by the Indianapolis-based Simon Properties real estate developer, at following youtube channel link< that might interest Back Bay Patch readers: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CX6u72thqNA
Kasey Hariman December 16, 2011 at 03:33 PM
Hi protestfolk! I see that there may be a violation based on on what you've submitted. However, I'm wondering what issues in particular motivated you to bring it up. Are you concerned about affordable housing, shadows cast by the building, or other issues? I'd love to see a more complex breakdown of your opinion on the issue(s). Let's get a discussion going!
Charlie December 22, 2011 at 02:01 AM
I've walked these streets for 7 years and I support this wonderful skyscraper, it doesn't bother me if there r shadows I moved here bc I wanted to get out of Norwood and go to the big city, actually it would have been a better tower if it was around 75ft taller, to today's standards this building is relatively short but will have a slight dominance but still shared by a number of other towers, it's actually a great skyscraper in a great location.
Charlie December 22, 2011 at 02:03 AM
I also heard groundbreaking is beginning as early as spring 2012, and if ur in the area alot u notice some activity beginning to build :)

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