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Proposed Ladder District Development Sparks Operatic Showdown

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Neighbors rebel against slenderness of so-called 'Pencil Tower,' lack of parking

Forces are massing against a 302-foot, 30-floor apartment tower proposed for 533 Washington Street in Boston's Ladder District. Recall that developer Rafi Properties wants to build 94 units atop a two-story restaurant and two floors of office space geared toward startups.

It's not necessarily this mix or even the height that has some powerful locals vocally nervous.

Rather, it's three things: (1) that Rafi wants to build the spire on the 3,648-square-foot former site of the Felt nightclub, which means that 533 Washington will really back up against the neighbors; (2) that Rafi does not plan to include parking as part of the tower (heavens!), which could mean potential traffic headaches in an already well-traveled area of Boston; and (3) a concern that what's been dubbed the "Pencil Tower" will not fit in with the surrounding Ladder District's lower-rise architecture. (This Pencil Tower should not be confused with the Skinny Tower proposed for 171 Tremont Street.)

One of the aggrieved neighbors is the restored Boston Opera House next-door. Per Jon Chesto in the Globe: "Concert promoter Don Law and philanthropist David Mugar sent a letter to the Boston Redevelopment Authority saying they’re adamantly opposed, rattling off several concerns about the pencil-thin apartment tower proposed next to their performance venue."

Also in the against camp are owners at the newish Millennium Place condo complex and some at Suffolk University. Meanwhile, Rafi's plans for 533 Washington are still very much in the early stages, with more details (and perhaps changes) likely this fall. Stay tuned.