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Winthrop Square tower expected to clear major hurdle, but opposition remains

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Surrounding building owners are concerned about the 1.6 million-square-foot development’s bulk

Rendering courtesy of Handel Architects

After two years of delays and tweaks, the plan for a tower in place of the former Winthrop Square Garage on Devonshire Street in Boston’s Financial District is expected to win approval from the city’s main regulatory body for new development.

The Boston Planning & Development Agency is likely on May 17 to approve developer Millennium Properties’ 1.6 million-square-foot, 690-foot plan for a condo and office tower.

It’s the latest plan in a process full of twists and tweaks (the spire, for instance, was once supposed to stretch to 775 feet, making it the second-tallest in Boston).

But such a green light does not signal a speedy start to construction. The plan still faces opposition from surrounding property owners who worry that the tower’s sheer bulk will negatively impact their own buildings.

The owner of the building at 75-101 Federal Street has even offered the city $30 million for parks and affordable housing if it makes Millennium Partners shrink the tower’s size to 1.2 million. The city is considering the offer.

Though Boston does have a vested interest in a larger version of the Winthrop Square tower. As the Globe’s Tim Logan notes: “Millennium’s purchase price for the city-owned garage—up to $163 million at last estimate—is being calculated partly by the square footage of condominiums it sells in the tower. So the larger the building, the bigger the proceeds” for things such as parks and affordable housing.

Stay tuned. The May 17 vote is just the latest.