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Don Chiofaro Isn't Done in Back Bay: a 273-Foot Hail Mary

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A lot of ink has been spilled over Mayor Menino's opposition to Don Chiofaro's $1 billion plan to build a pair of skyscrapers on Boston's waterfront. Less widely covered has been Chiofaro's proposed 29-story office tower in Bay Back, which would rise 273 feet above a deck constructed over the Massachusetts Turnpike and would include two floors of retail. But after a multi-year delay due to the Great Recession, the proposal is poised to make waves as the state agency which controls highway air rights, MassDOT, moves to select a developer for the high-profile site at the intersection of Boylston and Dalton streets.

Chiofaro faces stiff competition from the co-development team of Weiner Ventures, developer of the Mandarin Oriental Boston, and Samuels & Associates, the developer of a portfolio of neighborhood-transforming projects in the Fenway, including Trilogy and 1330 Boylston. The Weiner/Samuels team, known as ADG Scotia, has proposed a 32-story hotel and residential complex and includes development of additional MassDOT air rights at the corner of Mass Ave and Boylston Street known as Parcel 12. This has led the influential Citizen Advisory Committee, appointed by Mayor Menino, to review the proposals and to recommend that MassDOT designate ADG Scotia over Chiofaro.

Despite this recommendation, and Mayor Menino's well-publicized disdain for Chiofaro, the former Harvard football star could still score on a last-second Hail Mary. A recent filing with state officials includes a letter from Prudential Reality Advisers, which controls a key portion of the air rights at the corner of Boylston and Dalton streets, stating that they are working exclusively with Chiofaro. Prudential controls not only the commercially valuable frontage of the site along Boylston Street, but also the portion necessary to complete the deck over the Pike.

This leaves MassDOT with two choices. The agency could designate ADG Scotia, potentially leaving a large gap exposing the Mass. Pike at the high profile corner of Boylston and Dalton streets; or designate Chiofaro and risk a fight with City Hall for designating a developer who is in the mayor's doghouse. Will state officials heed Mayor Menino's presumptive choice or will Chiofaro's Hail Mary connect? Stay tuned. — A. Contributor

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[An aerial view of where the construction would be]