By Dan Murphy
Gov. Charlie Baker signed a home-rule petition into law Friday that would allow Millennium Partners to build a 775-foot luxury, condo tower on the site of the shuttered, city-owned Winthrop Square Garage, thereby bypassing two existing state “shadow” laws protecting the Boston Common and Public Garden.
While the new building would cast new shadows on the parks on many early mornings, Mayor Martin J. Walsh introduced the bill in April for a “one-time” exemption to the state laws, citing the reported $153 million windfall that sale of the property would bring the city. The City Council approved the bill by a vote of 10-3.
Brian Golden, director of the Boston Planning and Development Agency, applauded Baker for signing the bill in a statement.
“This common-sense change will better protect the Boston Common and Boston Public Garden for years to come while allowing a project that will generate hundreds of millions of dollars for Boston’s neighborhoods, parks and public housing to move forward,” Golden wrote.
Baker’s office couldn’t be immediately reached for comment.
With passage of the bill, the Friends of the Public Garden, which steadfastly opposed the project, has negotiated an agreement with Millennium Partners, whereby the developer would invest $125,000 a year for 40 years towards a fund for the upkeep of the Common, Public Garden and Commonwealth Avenue Mall.
“While we lost the battle to prevent this exemption from the state laws, we have succeeded in negotiating important commitments through our discussions with the Mayor’s office, the Boston Planning and Develop Authority, and Millennium,” wrote Leslie Adam and Liz Vizza, chair of the Friends group’s board of directors and executive director, respectively. “The city has committed to a comprehensive planning study for downtown, which is sorely needed if Boston’s development is to be guided by a broad perspective about what we need to preserve as we grow as a city, and not address one building at a time. The city has also committed to develop a master plan for the Common that will involve a robust public process.”
Meanwhile, the project, which is set to break ground next year, must still earn the approval of the Federal Aviation Administration before it can reach its proposed height.