A week before Thanksgiving, the Boston Redevelopment Authority voted to approve what will likely become Boston's tallest residential tower: a 47-story addition to Copley Place in Back Bay with 318 condos above a Neiman Marcus-dominated retail base that will be expanded by 115,000 square feet. The addition is part of a slew of (mostly luxury) apartment projects popping up about Boston with the splashy blessing of the Menino administration.
The Copley Place O.K., though, came despite vociferous opposition, including a timely "Occupy the Mayor's Office" protest in City Hall that sought to illumine for the public at large the main objections to the tower: that it will not only be a sop to wealthy developers and their wealthy customers in a city of increasingly higher rents and prices, but that it will increase traffic in the area, eat up precious public space and throw significantly more shadow on Copley Square. The BRA listened politely to these objections and voted unanimously regardless. The news the next day treated Copley Place as an argument that was all over but for the grouting (you read that right)—in other words, a done deal.
Opponents, however, are digging in. Landscape architect and urban designer Shirley Kressel, also a co-founder of the Alliance of Boston Neighborhoods, lobbed a salvo at the mayor's people over the weekend with an op-ed in the South End News. She goes into greater depth regarding the shadow, public-space and affordable-housing concerns of opponents. But Kressel takes particularly trenchant aim at the approval process behind Copley Place:
In sum, as the Copley Neighbors wrote on their "occupation" signs, the project is a move by the 1% against the 99%. The Mayor was not in to receive the Copley Neighbors. Chief of Public Property Michael Galvin, who happened to be around, listened politely and then told them that their words would not matter.
As always, the BRA board let everyone speak, and then, with little fanfare, approved unanimously.
Finally, Kressel invokes not only what we think is some wicked cool dragon imagery but also legendary Boston activist and politician Mel King, a longtime thorn in the BRA's busier side:
Usually, citizens scorched by the Mayor’s BRA dragon limp home in defeat and resignation. But this time, the dragon is facing Mel King, whose last community mobilization resulted in the Tent City mixed-income housing thriving next door to Copley. Don’t bet on this "done deal" yet. Settle in, kids. It could be a long, bitter winter.
· Who Will Occupy Copley Place? [South End News]
· Boston's Tallest Condo Tower O.K.'d Despite 'Occupy' [Curbed Boston]
· Rent Check! Boston Apartment Construction Booming [Curbed Boston]