Galvin throws shade on Millennium tower deal

Long ago, Beacon Hill insiders used to call then-Rep. William Galvin the Prince of Darkness because of his penchant for intrigue and political machinations. But now Galvin is coming to be known as the Lord of Light, the guy championing sunshine, not shadows, on Boston Common.

As secretary of state and the overseer of the Massachusetts Historical Commission, Galvin is urging lawmakers to put off action on legislation that would allow a politically connected developer to bypass a state law and build a new tower on the site of the Winthrop Square Garage that would cast shadows on the Boston Common and Public Garden.

Galvin is calling for a complete study of the building’s shadow impact on the two parks as well as the area’s historic buildings, including the State House. The 775-foot tower could do “great damage to historic buildings,” he said. “You can’t propose to do this without a complete study, but that’s what they’re talking about,” he told the Globe’s Tim Logan. “I don’t understand the rush.”

The rush is all about money. Boston Mayor Marty Walsh wants the law changed so Millennium Partners can build its tower and the city can get the $153 million due to come its way once construction begins. Walsh has already pledged the money for a number of initiatives, including $5 million as part of a state-city-business deal to bankroll the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway Conservancy.

Brian Golden, the head of the Boston Planning and Development Agency, is insisting that the complete study Galvin wants can’t be done until the bill passes and the project can legally move forward to an environmental review.

“We are disappointed that [Galvin’s] office is convoluting the process that will give the City of Boston an opportunity to invest hundreds of millions of dollars into our neighborhoods to improve our parks and public housing,” Golden said in a statement.

Convoluting the process? Some have argued that Walsh convoluted the process by approving construction of a new tower and parceling out the millions of dollars that will come with it without first having the shadow debate. Many observers, including the Boston Globe editorial page and a legion of the paper’s columnists, say take the money and accept the shadows.

But a New York Times story this week suggests there is another side to the story. “The concern is not merely about glimpsing the sky in an increasingly vertical downtown or about the risks of darkness to plants, historic buildings, and even humans. It is also about whether the city is going down a road of no return by trading away, one piece at a time, its intangible assets, like sunlight on its signature parks and public access to its gleaming waterfront.”



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