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City Approves Plans for $1 Billion Winthrop Square Tower

The somewhat controversial Winthrop Square project has overcome its first hurdle. Plans for the new tower were given a tentative designation by the Boston Planning and Development Agency in early November. Since then, however, many people have come out against the new tower, as its proposed height is technically too tall. The building would violate a 1990 law that was made to prevent buildings from casting shadows on important public spaces. While it looks like Winthrop Square will move forward, it may not end up being quite as towering as the developer, Millennium Partners, would like.

New York-based Millennium Partners offered, by far, the highest price for the land on which Winthrop Square will sit. At $153 million, their offer far outstripped any that were made by other developers. The city understandably chose Millennium Partners, and much of the money will be used to make improvements to this part of the city. In addition to getting a new tower, then, the Financial District will get some other improvements. We have not heard yet precisely what the nature of those improvements will be, but we will keep you in the loop as we learn more.

Slated to cost more than $1.02 billion, the proposed tower would stand 750 feet tall. As such, it would be the third-tallest building in the city and in the entire region. However, the proposed height of the tower has already stirred up a lot of controversy, as studies have already shown that at that height, the building will cast shadows on Boston Common and Boston Public Garden. The mayor, for one, has no problem with the tower being built that tall. He is seeking an exemption to allow the building to be constructed per the plans, but many local residents are fighting back. Right now, we are not sure if the tower will ultimately stand 750 feet.

The fact that the height of the building violates that 1990 law is a pretty big problem. It's not the only one, unfortunately. The Massachusetts Port Authority recently chimed in with complaints of its own. Namely, MassPort is concerned about how the tower would affect flights coming into and out of Logan International Airport. Therefore, for the tower to be built to stand 750 feet, the developer must somehow overcome that 1990 law and somehow appease MassPort. This is looking increasingly unlikely to happen. MassPort has stated that the building should be a maximum of 710 feet tall, so perhaps that will end up being the actual height when this is all said and done.

According to the study that was done regarding whether the tower would cast shadows on any public spaces, it would most likely create shadows on the Boston Common around half of the days of the year. It will probably cast shadows on Boston Public Garden for an average of 100 days per year. Locals are worried too that approving this height will be a slippery slope and that other developers will demand equal treatment. They fear that if too many massive towers are built in this part of the city, the parks won't receive enough sunshine and will be a lot less pleasant.

At any rate, this wouldn't be the first time that a developer had to adjust their plans due to concerns about shadows. In particular, the residential tower that was built at 171 Tremont Street by Swiss investor Maurice Dabbah had to be reduced in height to avoid violating that 1990 law. That doesn't bode well for Winthrop Square, but it appears that the mayor is very enthusiastic about the tower. We will be watching the development of this story closely, as its outcome could dramatically affect construction and development in the city for a long time to come.

In the meantime, let's look at what the proposed tower will be like--other than its height, which remains in question. If it is built to stand 750 feet, it will be 10 feet taller than the Four Seasons Hotel and Private Residences, which is being built at One Dalton Street. The first step in its construction will be the demolition and razing of the vacant four-story parking garage that currently sits there. It is something of an eyesore, so residents should be happy to have something else there before too long.

According to the developer, Winthrop Square will consist of 300 luxury residential units. 54 of them are earmarked to be affordable housing, so they will be offered at below market rate rental prices. The site will include 540 parking spaces, which we assume will be located in a parking garage. Most likely, the garage will be below ground, so it shouldn't affect the aesthetics of the area. We do not know yet whether units in this building will come with parking spaces, or if residents will have to pay extra to use them. We also do not know if there will be on-site ZipCars and other transportation options.

The building won't consist exclusively of residential units. Plans call for 487,000 square feet of commercial office and retail space as well. In this way, Winthrop Square will be a mixed-use building. Interestingly, it is also slated to include a 12,750-square-foot "cultural amenity" that is being called a Great Hall. We can only assume that the Great Hall will be a place where concerts and other events can be held. However, the developer has not issued any more information about it.

Very little information has been released about what the residential units in this building will be like. We do know that they are expected to be condos, but no floor plans or other information has been released. Given that these will be luxury condos, however, it is safe to assume that they will include a variety of high-end features. Since this will be a massive tower even if the city cuts it down in size a little, units inside it should offer spectacular views of the surrounding area. Given its prime location in the Financial District, this building is sure to be in hot demand as soon as it opens.

We have also not received any specific information about the types of amenities and services that will be offered at this Financial District residential tower. Again, though, we can make some fairly educated guesses based on the types of amenities that are offered at similar developments. For one thing, this building will almost certainly include a 24-hour fitness center. We expect that it will be pet friendly, as Bostonians really love their furry, four-legged friends. In addition to parking for cars, we are sure that many accommodations will be made for cyclists, including bike storage and bike repair stations.

You can expect that this residential tower will also include some sort of rooftop deck or terrace. Just about every residential building that has been constructed in Boston over the last few years has one. They are wildly popular with residents, and this one would be especially noteworthy due to the height of the building. On the premises, we also expect there to be some sort of club house or game room. We have not heard about any plans for LEED certification, but we'd be shocked if the builder wasn't aiming to snag one. We also suspect that this building will offer 24-hour concierge services, single-stream recycling, around-the-clock security and many other great services.

Although it will be a while before Winthrop Square opens, it's never too early to start planning in a fast-paced city like Boston. While the argument over the height of the building may slow down the progress of this project for a while, it should be resolved soon enough. Once it is, we expect this project to unfold rapidly. If you would like to buy a condo in this building, stick with Boston City Properties. We will keep you up to date about the progress of this tower, so you can act quickly when the time comes. Use our convenient search feature to check availability when the time comes. We also have real estate experts in the Financial District who can take you to look at condos in this building when they become available. We're here when you need us, so contact Boston City Properties today.