Friday, April 20, 2012

$500 million, 47-story Copley Tower Gets Go-Ahead

City officials have approved construction of what would be Boston’s tallest residential building, a 47-story tower at Copley Place with 318 condominiums above a retail base that houses an expanded Neiman Marcus store and other shops. Supporters said the tower will be a striking addition to the skyline and will create jobs and improve the neighborhood.

The board of the Boston Redevelopment Authority OK’d the $500 million project by Simon Property Group, of Indianapolis, after a long debate involving residents, union laborers, and public officials. Opponents argued it won’t provide enough affordable housing and will worsen traffic and cast shadows on nearby Copley Square. In the end, however, the board voted that the project should move forward.

Simon Property Group hopes to begin construction later this year.

The tower was just one of several large projects to win approval.

Others included a 404-unit apartment tower next to the Jacob Wirth Restaurant on Stuart Street near Boston’s Theatre District and a mixed use-project project on Boylston Street that will be developed by Abbey Group.  It will have 210 apartments, offices, and stores in a building that will replace a McDonald’s.

Union workers said the project would alleviate a 35 percent unemployment rate in the building trades in Massachusetts. Others said the project would bring $7 million a year in tax collections and upgrades of nearby public spaces.

Opponents, including Democratic state Representative Byron Rushing, argued the developer is shortchanging the city on affordable housing.

The tower, designed by Elkus Manfredi Architects, would add nearly 800,000 square feet to the Copley Place complex. Currently the complex has 100 apartments, the Westin and Marriott hotels, four office buildings, a shopping mall, and a 1,400-space garage.

In addition to new residences, the project would include a renovation and expansion of Neiman Marcus.

A public winter garden would also be built, along with a redesign of the entry to Southwest Corridor Park and up to $1 million in public art displays.

Simon plans 10 apartments in the tower to be affordable housing and is negotiating to build another 35 units in the South End. It is seeking a location for another three units it needs to build to comply with city rules mandating affordable housing in such projects equal to 15 percent of the total residences.