Citizens of the Impact Advisory Group (IAG) for the $1 billion Boston Garden development project are calling foul on Mayor Menino’s “compromise” agreement with developers, Boston Properties and Delaware North and their plan for a mega-complex in front of the existing TD Garden.
Citing no significant concessions to neighborhood concerns regarding the 600 foot tower height or traffic mitigation, the group refers to Menino’s previous statements that the developers’ would make changes in response to public comments.
Further, the IAG members question the assessment of “blight” that would result in a $7.8 million tax break for the tri-tower complex on Causeway Street.
In a statement, the Mayor’s office cited the hope that such a deal would help developers attract a Star Market supermarket, long desired in the downtown neighborhoods. The Boston Redevelopment Authority board is set to approve the Boston Garden project at a December 19th meeting, the last in Mayor Menino’s term.
The letter from IAG members is shown below in its entirety.
December 11, 2013
Mayor Thomas M. Menino
City of Boston
1 City Hall Square, Suite 500
Boston, MA 02201-2013
Subject: 80 Causeway Street (Boston Garden) Development Dear Mayor Menino:
As members of the Boston Garden Development Impact Advisory Group, the developer’s representative recently informed us that the project is moving forward for BRA Board approval on December 19, 2013, just one week away.
Many IAG members, both in meetings and comment letters, expressed significant concerns about:
- The 600-foot height and the precedent it sets for future development in the area, particularly in the Partners HealthCare-owned Nashua Street quadrant and at the Equity Residential Garage site,
- The traffic impacts of this project, especially when considered with the nine additional approved and proposed developments in the West End, and
- The implication of calling this project parcel “blighted” so there can be a 121A tax break given to the developers for the first Phase. We still do not know any of the details about this tax break.
While we were given the opportunity to speak, we do not feel we were heard, nor were our concerns given serious consideration. There has not been one meaningful concession on the major issues.
At this point it is clear the project is moving forward. While we do want the project to move forward and have made some very clear comments of support and enthusiastic recognition for many of its proposed aspects, we know we have ultimately not had any real mitigating impact on the project “impacts” you asked us to advise you about. We ask you now, as concerned neighborhood representatives and, as your neighborhood appointees on this Mayor’s Impact Advisory Group, for your help. You, as our “people’s” Mayor, recently gave us much hope when you urged the developer to work with us for a compromise (BBJ 11/7/2013: “Mayor Thomas M. Menino… insisted the developer consider neighborhood concerns about setting a precedent with a (600 foot) skyscraper at the TD Garden. “There has to be a compromise someplace in this development,” Menino said. “I have faith in Boston Properties to work with the community. They have been excellent in other developments in the city and they will work on this one. I believe there will be a compromise.”)
Please help us realize the compromise to which you refer. The historic Bulfinch Triangle section of our West End neighborhood consists predominantly of 150-foot warehouse style buildings. We ask again for your help in requiring the developer to limit the precedent-setting height of their skyscraper to preserve and enhance as much of the character of our neighborhood as possible.
Thank you for your consideration.
Boston Garden IAG Members
Linda Ellenbogen, Hawthorne Place Condominium
Joanne Fantasia, North End
Brian Rettman, Strada 234
Kathleen Ryan, West End Council
Louise Thomas, West End Civic Association
Jim Zahka, Strada 234, West End Civic Association
Update: Friday, December 13, 2013 – Letter from IAG Member Robert O’Brien, Executive Director of the Downtown North Association
Fellow Members of the Impact Advisory Group for the Boston Garden Project:
With respect, I do not believe that the letter to the Mayor sent by some members of the Impact Advisory Group fully reflects the progress that has been made on this project since its Project Notification Form (PNF) was filed on September 6th. Clearly, there has been no change in the proposed zoning allowance height of the tallest project tower; but there have been several significant and substantive changes in other aspects of the project, as I think the Supplemental Information filed on December 6th makes clear. These certainly include, but are by no means limited to, the report of real progress on the development of a long-awaited supermarket as part of the first phase of the project, on which I would expect there will be more details announced before the BRA Board Meeting. And while we may not know all of the details of the 121A agreement, we do know its basic parameters, which are limited in both scope and duration. And I would expect more information on that matter will also be forthcoming. As for traffic impacts, I believe that the end-state traffic analysis does take all area projects into account, as required, although as DNA comments on the PNF emphasized, there is need for a more comprehensive and coordinated strategy for construction-period traffic management and mitigation,
Attached hereto is a preliminary analysis of the Supplemental Information, which has been shared with the DNA Board and touches on many of these same points. While I understand your concern and that of others on the IAG with regard to the height issue, and agree that it is important, it is not the only project issue worthy of note, nor should it preclude reference to other changes that have been made — or to the significance of the final design process that has yet to begin.
In that context, as a member of the IAG, I could not sign-on to the letter that was actually sent.
Robert B. O’Brien, Executive Director Downtown North Association and Member of the Boston Garden Project IAG