Public Concern Surrounding the Winthrop Square Project

Photo Credit: Handel Architects (Millennium Partners)

Yesterday, the Boston City Council held an open forum at City Hall to discuss the pros and cons of the proposed Winthrop Square redevelopment. This project, lead by developers Millennium Partners, would revitalize an area that currently surmounts to an unused, eyesore of a parking lot, and transform it into a stunning 755 foot mixed-use tower. An added benefit would be the city windfall of up to $153 million, which would be used for affordable housing and the maintenance and upgrade of the city’s parks.

Millennium Partners has created a robust economic development strategy that would increase the vibrancy of Downtown Boston for years to come, through dynamic programming, environmental sustainability and a commitment to the development of women and minorities in the workforce. More housing. More local business. More jobs. Better parks and public spaces. And more funding for affordable housing. Sounds great, right? So why is this project creating such controversy?

It all has to do with shadows. Current shadow laws would only allow for about a 400 foot tall building on the parcel the Millennium Partners are eyeing, in order to avoid casting shadows on the Commons and Public Gardens. But, how much would we really be affected? The proposed building would only add 5 more minutes of shadow on the Public Gardens and 30 minutes more on the Boston Commons in the morning. There wouldn’t be any shadows past 9:30 a.m. Current law allows for long (5-6 hour) shadows to be cast on the commons,  but this statute would eliminate that in exchange for the early morning shadows. The request isn’t to allow this new development to cast shadows, that is already possible. The issue at hand is that the Winthrop Square garage location isn’t currently in the Midtown Cultural District which eliminates it from being able to use any of the current shadow allotment. Millennium Partners is requesting the city rezone Winthrop Square so it can be subject to the CURRENT shadow laws, and allow the project to move forward. 

Would you accept 30 more minutes of shadow in the early morning (as opposed to potentially hours of shade during the afternoon as currently possible) in exchange for millions in funding to improve Boston’s overall infrastructure? I know I would. #letbostonrise