Community Real Estate

Shadowing the Government Center Garage Redevelopment After the Tower Height Reductions

Summer Shadows – June 21st, 5pm – Shadow impact of the Government Center Garage project … latest proposal in blue with yellow indicating the reduction on the Greenway from the original tower heights. (Image: HYM Project Team)

The recent buzz about the proposed Government Center Garage Redevelopment project has centered around its tower heights. In response to concerns regarding shadows on the Rose F. Kennedy Greenway parks and the North End neighborhood, developer Thomas O’Brien and HYM Investment Group has reduced its originally proposed tower heights from the original Project Notification Form to the current Draft Project Impact Report. The specific height reductions include:

  • 72′ drop in the office tower on the west parcel from 600′ to 528′
  • 118′ drop in the residential / hotel tower on the east parcel from 275′ to 157′

So, what is the shadow difference between the original and current proposal? HYM Project Team member, Dino DiFronzo, helped answer our question and provided the following shadow variance maps reflecting the seasonal periods, late in the afternoon daylight period. In Summer (shown above) the sun is high in the sky and shadows are short. The indicated changes help reduce the shadows on the North End Parks on the Greenway. In Winter (shown below) the sun is at its lowest and shadows are long. The indicated changes still produce a long shadow on the North End’s rooftops.

Winter Shadows – December 21st, 3pm – Shadow impact of the Government Center Garage project … latest proposal in blue with yellow indicating the reduction from the original proposal. (Image: HYM Project Team)

To fill in the seasonal gap between Summer and Winter, below is the Fall – September 21st map for 6:00 pm with the new net shadow impact extending over the Greenway into the North End.

Fall Shadows – September 21st, 5pm – Shadow impact of the Government Center Garage project … latest proposal in blue (this map does not include the original proposal shadow) (Image: HYM Project Team)

The developer’s shadow study with maps for all the seasons at various times is available in this PDF file. HYM points out the heights for the redevelopment are lower than those drafted in the Greenway District Planning Study that is currently being codified into zoning by the Boston Redevelopment Authority. Full documents regarding the Government Center Garage Redevelopment can be found at the BRA website and the HYM project site.

Debating Height in Boston

Much has been written about the oft-debated height issues related to new Boston developments including the Government Center Garage. A recent column by Boston Globe commentator Paul McMarrow titled “Scared of heights” argues in favor of higher towers for Boston’s skyline. The Globe also posted some countering letters, including  “Many of the greatest cities lack tall buildings” and “Nothing ‘world class’ about sprawling up.

Take Our Poll

Here is your turn to voice your opinion on the height issue regarding the Government Center Garage Redevelopment project:

Note: Web polls are not scientific. One vote per user (IP address).

11 Replies to “Shadowing the Government Center Garage Redevelopment After the Tower Height Reductions

  1. On a cold day in January no one will be around to complain about the “shadow” on the Greenway. On a hot day in July everyone will like a little shade to escape the brutal hot sun. This city has the wrong priorities. Liberals always get in the way of business.

    1. I think the owners of buildings in the North End that will be impacted by the shadow cast onto their rooftops might have a complaint if it results in snow and ice not melting and they have structural problems (leaks,roof collapse). One’s politcal views have nothing to do with this issue. If a developer overpaid for the property it is not up to the residents of the surrounding neighborhoods to agree to the height the developer has calculated he/she needs to make his target profit margin if the proposed building(s) will have a negative impact on the neighborhood’s quality of life. The North End lived in the shadow of the elevated highway for decades. Now everyone wants us to live in the shadows of 600 ft towers.

      1. Could not agree more with “confused” — this is an unfair proposal. Keep the height of the towers to surrounding building heights. This will ruin the North End and the Greenway.

        1. Where can we see what the winter sun will look like at 12pm? Will parts of the North End be shaded all day, except early morning?

          Also — before we all get too worked up — is there a graphic showing current shade issues overlayed with the proposal?

            1. @ Matt — thanks for the link and explanation. These towers pose a really large increase in shadowing over our neighborhood from the current state of the world. It looks like parts of the greenway closer to the towers will be shaded for most of the day from October through March, which I think is wholly unacceptable. Why would the City want to let that happen?

              Also, these towers will darken large patches of the neighborhood about two hours earlier than normal from the Fall and into the Spring. It is absurd, in my opinion. This impact cannot be mitigated or reversed unless they reduce the height of the buildings even more.

              The neighborhood is growing in a positive way since the Big Dig. This will jeopardize that growth and development.

  2. How can a little extra shade for a few months out of the year jeopardize the growth and development of the North End?

    This project is a major win for the city of Boston. Replacing the hideous obstruction that exists now will bring new retail, office space and residences generating new tax revenue and creating a street level that is more pedestrian friendly between the North End, Beacon Hill and the West End.

    I wish those concerned over this project “grandiose design” used their energy to force the developers to build more creative/inspiring architecture or to make investments in our parks. A beautiful tall building that abuts a park with new amenities is a lot more important than settling for meritocracy by forcing downsizing all 2 extra hours of sun light.

    I’m in the darn office all day anyways… If I want to bask in the sun I go to the beach

    1. Agreed. The picture showing the winter shadow all across the neighborhood is scaring people, but if you look in depth it sweeps over the neighborhood in ~2 hours. You would still have the sun shining on the NE all through the early afternoon, so the snow/ice should be able to melt. Anyways, isn’t it kind of dumb to be worrying about shadows in winter even though the sky is overcast most of the time anyways?

  3. unfortunately there are many people adversely affected by lack of light I believe the medical community call this condition SADD. I may have spelled SADD incorrectly but if you look up this condition you may better understand the impact of this condition PLEASE check with the medical community. This is a quality of life issue. With that said, when a developer buys a bldg. or land they have a team of experts that check every aspect of the project, that most important being the profit margin. This developer also said his company was going to put a supermarket on the site. Is the northend community aware this is also off the table.,its financially unfeasible. Really, did your experts miscalculate your profit margin. The excessively tall buildings surrounding the North End, with more on the drawing board, , are creating a negative impact on our community. This is not progress. The North End has a fifty five foot high cap on all bldgs. North Station area once part of the North End is now called the Bulfinch Area which somehow makes it exempt from the 55foot cap.
    Blackstone St. Area , Waterfront Area both considered part of the North End (when they were decrepted (sp) are now exempt from the 55 foot cap. ENOUGH, Give us a break, NO MORE HIGHRISE BUILDINGS 55foot cap for ALL Get this monstrosity off the table, If the the powers that be keep this excessive height The building should be names A TESTAMENT TO GREED.

    1. @Mame – I believe you are referring to “Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), also known as winter depression, winter blues, summer depression, summer blues, or seasonal depression.” (ref. Wikipedia)

      Respectfully I believe that if even as much as 1 in 10 North End residents become SAD in the winter months shadow of this building the economic benefit to the city far out ways their temporary depression. Winter happiness hint: try a sport like skiing, ice skating or last resort, some Xanax.

      We need progressive urban planning that considers the economic and demographic needs of the entire city (and region for that matter). The entire state of MA can benefit from improving downtown Boston’s ability to provide commercial and residential density (ie. keeping families and jobs in state).

      So again, I admire your passion but please focus your energy on some of your stronger criticisms, like forcing the developer to secure grocer as a tenant.

      – Sean Scanlon (formally, Salem St. Resident)

    2. I have SAD. The doctor told me to take vitamin D, get a full spectrum light bulb or two for home, and to get out of the house. He never mentioned not living next to tall buildings, which makes me believe this is probably not something the medical community is wildly worried about. Personally, I don’t see tall buildings hurting my ability to eat a vitamin, buy a light bulb, or leave me home, so I can’t really see a negative on that end. What I do see is a huge positive to adding desperately needed space to a city bursting at the seems.

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