Millennium promises shorter Winthrop Sq. tower

Millennium promises shorter Winthrop Sq. tower

To address airport concerns, height will drop at least 73 feet

THE DEVELOPER MILLENNIUM PARTNERS agreed on Monday to cut the height of its proposed tower in Winthrop Square from 775 feet to at least 702 feet to ease concerns raised about the building’s impact on flight patterns out of Logan International Airport. The lower height, presumably, will also reduce the building’s shadow impact on Boston Common.

The announcement came one day after James Aloisi wrote an op-ed for CommonWealth indicating Millennium’s proposed 775-foot height would have an impact on runway use at Logan International Airport and increase aircraft noise levels in East Boston and other communities to the north and west of the airport. Massport officials said on Monday that some 21,000 departures a year would have been affected.

The article triggered strong negative reactions that stretched from City Hall to Beacon Hill, and apparently prompted Millennium to defuse the situation by promising to lower the height of its billion-dollar tower by about 73 feet, or roughly five to seven stories.

Joe Larkin, a principal at Millennium Boston, issued a statement saying “we will not be proposing a building that has any impact on flight paths in or out of Logan.”

Larkin’s statement sought to downplay the controversy over the height of the building, calling a “notice of presumed hazard” issued by the Federal Aviation Administration on Aug. 31 “standard procedure.” That notice said the building’s proposed height of 775 feet would “have an adverse physical or electromagnetic effect upon navigable airspace or air navigation facilities” and is “presumed to be a hazard to air navigation.”

The FAA letter said it would give immediate approval for a building that was 518 feet tall, but indicated a tower no higher than 702 feet might be acceptable with four months of additional study, including a public comment period. “The outcome cannot be predicted prior to public circularization,” the letter said.

Aloisi based his analysis of the impact of the tower on a December 2016 letter from officials at the Massachusetts Port Authority to state environmental officials. The Massport letter opposed construction of any building in that downtown location higher than 702 feet.

The FAA subsequently issued its notice of presumed hazard on Aug. 31, but no public mention of that letter was made until Monday.

Brian Golden, the head of the Boston Planning and Development Agency, released a statement on Monday saying “our interpretation of the [FAA] letter is that a tower over 702 feet would impact East Boston and communities north of Boston. Therefore, the mayor has asked Millennium Boston to limit their height to 702 feet to ensure that safety is never compromised and that there are no changes to flight patterns that would adversely impact any of our neighborhoods or surrounding communities.”

Tom Glynn, the head of Massport, said “Millennium’s acceptance of 702 feet is good for the communities and good for the traveling public.”

Meet the Author

Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

Before Millennium’s announcement, reaction was strong and negative on social media. Lawmakers on Beacon Hill indicated they might file legislation to lower the height of the building if Millennium failed to act.

The Winthrop Square tower has already stirred concerns about the building’s shadow impact on the Boston Common and the Public Garden. Indeed, a bill allowing the greater shadow impact on the two parks was signed into law by Gov. Charlie Baker in late July.

  • QuincyQuarry.com

    Ah yes: the old initially seek something utterly outrageous with the secret goal of eventually splitting difference to something merely obscene ploy.

  • Mhmjjj2012

    This certainly shows CommonWealth has some clout. Simply by featuring a well written commentary on CommonWealth’s front page can lead to a much-needed change. So why wasn’t the commentary, “Time to update state school funding formula,” by Boston Public School teacher Alycia Steelman given only a few hours on CommonWealth’s front page? CommonWealth buried it as soon as it saw the light of day while other much older articles/commentaries of lessor importance were still featured prominently. With well over 900,000 students in Massachusetts public schools and the state not meeting its minimum legal obligation to those students under the 1993 Education Reform Act, it’s essential for the public and local officials to know that fact. Then something will be done about it.