Three years after submitting its first proposal for a residential tower atop Copley Place, Simon Property Group has filed updated project files with the city’s Redevelopment Authority in an attempt to move the project forward.
A Draft Project Impact Report, submitted on Monday, describes a 47-story residential tower containing 318 units, 115,000 feet of expanded commercial space and a massive renovation to the existing Niemen Marcus department store. The project would take over the brick plaza at the corner of Dartmouth and Stuart streets and rise above the existing commercial building.
The report proposes a number of exterior improvements including an impressive new glass entrance containing a public garden with “a variety of trees and other flora,” cafe seating and wi-fi access. The Southwest Corridor entrance would be updated to include a street-level café, new glass storefronts and space for a farmers market and art shows. Pedestrians would be encouraged to cut through the building to access Stuart Street.
Several of the outdoor improvements were made in response to feedback from the project’s Community Advisory Committee, which has brought forth concerns from Back Bay and South End parties. In the past, neighbors have brought up issued such as traffic, noise and the potential darkening of nearby streets and landmarks that lie in the shadow of the residential tower.
One-third of the 15-page report addresses those, and other, concerns, while emphasizing the measures taken "minimize environmental impacts while providing improvements to the public realm and the overall pedestrian experience."
The multi-million dollar project has yet to be approved by the Boston Redevelopment Authority and is still under review by the Community Advisory Committee, which is slated to submit recommendations to the BRA this fall.
In June, certain members of the committee questioned Gov. Deval Patrick’s decision to sign a revised 99-year lease with the developer before final recommendations had been submitted. At the time, MassDOT Director of Real Estate Peter O’Connor told the Committee that its input would still be valued and BRA approval had not been predetermined by the governor’s pen.
The renegotiated lease, which needed the Governor’s approval because it involves condos, requires Simon to pay $2.5 million to help maintain the Turnpike tunnel underneath the parcel.
At the time, State Rep. Byron Rushing also took issue with extending the lease from 2077 to 2110. He said Copley Place’s lease should have been left alone and a separate lease drafted for the new tower, which, when completed, will be the tallest residential tower in the city.
“We have a 99-year lease so people will develop the land but also because we want to protect the public,” Rushing said. “I do believe the closer we get to the end of that 99-year lease the public should be able to engage the owner of the property and that’s not going to happen now.”
In its report, Simon said the project’s residential component takes advantage of the site’s proximity to mass transit and “further strengthens the connection between the Back Bay and South End neighborhoods.”