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Rebuilding the Boston Skyline

Plans Emerge for Skyscrapers in Boston

Heights Staff

Published: Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Updated: Wednesday, February 27, 2013 22:02

Boston Properties, the locally based real estate investment trust, unveiled plans to add another skyscraper to the ranks of the Prudential Center and the Hancock Tower in Boston’s Back Bay, and is awaiting approval by the Boston Redevelopment Authority, which oversees land use in the city.

The proposed 33-story mixed-use building would stand on Stuart Street, where the John Hancock Hotel & Conference center once stood. Last fall, the Saunders Hotel Group and developer Jordan Warshaw proposed the $225 million building that involves tearing down the existing structure, the Boston Common Hotel & Conference Center, and constructing a 220-room hotel with 142 condo units, 100 parking spaces, and multiple restaurants.

The tower will reportedly be called 40 Trinity Place, and the rendering as depicted on shows a slim glass tower with two asymetric sloped rooves. Trinity Place, if approved, will be yet another representation of the recent commercial building boom taking place downtown, not only in Back Bay but also in places like the Seaport District. Over the past few years, the Seaport District has been well on its way to transforming its South Boston waterfront location into a start-up and tech company breeding ground full of new, large residential complexes, deemed the “Innovation District” by Mayor Thomas M. Menino.

Gary Saunders, chairman of the Saunders Hotel Group, told that he is looking forward to working with the city and the community “to bring an exciting new locally-owned and operated hotel and residences to the heart of Back Bay.” The hotelier hopes to start construction next fall.

Boston Properties, which owns both the Hancock and Prudential Towers, is additionally in the planning and proposal stages of erecting an office skyscraper in place of a 2,000-car parking garage at 100 Clarendon St., which would be mere steps away from the developer’s Trinity Place hotel project. The building would join the 60-story Hancock Tower and the 52-story Prudential Tower in dominating the Boston skyline. It is projected that the building would be at least 40 to 50 stories tall in order to accommodate the number of tenants needed for the rent to support the cost of the development, especially since a torn-down Clarendon St. garage would involve loss of revenue.

Approval of the new office tower, however, might not be granted so easily. Since about one-third of the existing parking garage is above ground with the remainder hovering over the Mass. Pike, the project will require substantial infrastructure requirements, as the turnpike is a major Boston roadway. Boston Properties has not officially filed plans with the Boston Redevelopment Authority, and a building of this scale and visibility is likely to face critics.

A Back Bay neighborhood panel of residents and business leaders, for example, recently indicated that the impending office-building site and the newly acquired hotel site are not viable hosts for significant redevelopment. The panel argues that the properties, which would accommodate building heights of at least 30 to 40 stories, or about 400 ft., exceed the 125-foot limit allowed under existing zoning laws. To qualify for the additional height, Boston Properties must prove that the developments will follow guidelines established by the panel, including that the buildings will not increase wind in the area nor cast shadows on nearby parks or historic structures.

It is also unclear as to why Boston Properties is seeking approval for another office building when it was granted approval in 2008 for a 17-story, $192 million office tower at 888 Boylston St. that has not yet been built. The development company has explained that it would not begin construction of the Boylston St. building until they can secure a tenant.

Though the Back Bay skyline is already renowned for its beauty and appeal, the majority of its construction dates back before the 1980s, which leads many to believe that these new high-rise developments just might modernize a familiar part of the Boston skyline.

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