Few building projects in recent years have generated the neighborhood outcry like the Winthrop Square Project that proposes a 775-foot tower casting shadows over highly used and very environmentally fragile areas like the Public Garden, Boston Common and Commonwealth Mall. That is why we join our voice with those of the neighborhood groups like the Friends of the Public Garden and the Neighborhood Association of Back Bay to oppose changing the Shadow Laws as it presently exists that would allow this project as proposed to be built.
For all the millions of dollars worth of the residential property units that surround the Common or the Mall or the Public Garden, there is almost no open green space that comes with these properties.
One only has to walk these areas in the spring, summer of fall and see the thousands of residents enjoying the sun and open air with their families and friends from these neighborhoods and other Boston neighborhoods enjoying an oasis from the city life.
Today, the highly overuse of these open spaces continues to show. The ground in these areas where the grass and trees are found is so packed by foot traffic that it is almost impossible for rainwater to reach the root system. As a matter of fact, over the last few years many events were moved off the Common to City Hall Plaza to help mitigate the overuse that was being experienced.
Even with many events being diverted to the brick expanse of City Hall Plaza, it remained a brick wasteland until just this year when the Boston Garden Development Corporation committed millions to bring facilities like a skating rink to attract people to start to use this area and make it a part of a neighborhood.
And therein lies a lesson.
City Hall Plaza is about eight acres in a densely populated part of the City that was mostly devoid of people during times when the Common was packed. It needs to be noted that the walking distance between these two areas is less then 10 minutes. Why would people choose the Common over City Hall Plaza to congregate? The answer must be that one is sterile and the other is bursting with life during all seasons of the year
We are not experts on knowing what is necessary to make the more than 700 trees on the Common, Mall and Public Garden thrive and continue to live for many more years. We do know that sunlight is a crucial part of the life and that any amount of restriction could be negatively irreversible.
Boston is experiencing a building boom especially in the downtown areas. This is all good as more revenues will bring in added tax dollars that can help other areas of the City to improve and become more livable and safe for families. However, we must not lose sight of what people are looking for in the downtown neighborhoods. They are looking for open green space to look out on and then enjoy being in when they leave their apartments in these towers.
There are many positive factors that the Winthrop Square Project will bring like more affordable housing. But to put further stress on an already fragile environment seems to start the downward process that could end up destroying the reason these areas are booming and becoming a catalyst to help other parts of Boston…
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