I like the idea of having a new office tower in Boston, and, to a certain extent, I think the demand is there to make it successful.

However, I’m not sure the city government should be competing with private developers for scarce dollars from banks, and, also, I can’t understand how the city thinks it can get a building like this off the ground (on the ground?), when they’ve had such little luck building out the Fan Pier, Seaport District, and Fort Point Channel areas.

This is what I would like to see being encouraged by the city: thousands of condos and apartments being built on the other side of the Northern Avenue, Congress Street, and Seaport District Evelyn Moakley bridges. Similar to what the Seaport Alliance for a Neighborhood Design (or, SAND) organization has proposed.

You probably read yesterday that Mayor Thomas Menino has proposed that a 1,000-foot high-rise office tower be built in the middle of the Financial District, at Winthrop Square (currently the site of a city-owned parking garage).

My opinion? I’d rather everyone focus on more realistic (and better-thought-out) goals.

Over the past half-decade (at least) there have been many plans drawn up by the Boston Redevelopment Authority for (re)development of the Seaport District / Fan Pier / Fort Point Channel areas. Several buildings have gone up in those areas (a couple apartment complexes, at least, and I guess you could count the new Institute of Contemporary Art building (although I don’t think they’ve even raised all the money they needed to build the thing)) but I don’t know of anyone who thinks things are moving forward very quickly. In fact, the 100 Acres project has stagnated, and appears to be on the verge of collapse, so much so that the Mayor is going up to Beacon Hill to ask for financial help to make all the necessary infrastructure improvements.

I’m concerned that the city, through its chosen developer, will be competing with private developers for financing from banks. I assume there a limited amount of funds available out there for developers to draw upon. If so, will having the city in the bidding for this money mean other developers will end up with no funds for their own projects?

I question the need for a single building of this size. (However, other, more educated and experienced people think the city can use at least one new office tower, over the next couple of years – The Boston Globe ran an article in January on the health of the downtown Boston commercial real estate market, and The Boston Herald has an analysis of what might happen over the coming year.)

The city may also have more trouble than it thinks when it tries to get the tower approved by local residents. (You wouldn’t think the city would have any trouble, being that they control development, but area residents were able to put the kibosh on plans for a skyscraper at South Station (Two Financial Center), making that developer lower the height to just 12-stories.)

Plus, the Federal Aviation Administration might have something to say about a thousand foot skyscraper (they have the right to limit the heights of buildings in the flight paths of jets leaving Logan Airport).

On an unrelated note, I have to question this statement, from an expert, as quoted in the Globe article:

Ken Greenberg, an urban designer and founder of Greenberg Consultants Inc. of Toronto, said Boston could use another skyscraper, because the 1980s and ’90s brought a series of buildings of much the same height.

I don’t think that’s an accurate statement (about buildings being built of the same height, during the ’80s and ’90s), and it’s kind of a silly thing to say that Boston could use another skyscraper, just because they built a bunch of them, in the past.

It made me wonder, however, how big are the buildings, in Boston.

Here is a list of Boston’s ten tallest skyscrapers, and the year construction was finished (courtesy Emporis.com by way of Skyscraper Picture):

1. JOHN HANCOCK TOWER 241m/790f, 60 stories, 1976
2. PRUDENTIAL TOWER 229m/750f, 52 stories, 1964
3. FEDERAL RESERVE BANK BUILDING 187m/614f, 32 stories, 1976
4. ONE BOSTON PLACE 183m/601f, 41 stories, 1970
5. ONE INTERNATIONAL PLACE 183m/600f, 46 stories, 1987
6. FIRST NATIONAL BANK OF BOSTON 180m/591f, 37 stories, 1971
7. ONE FINANCIAL CENTER 180m/590f, 46 stories, 1983
8. 111 HUNTINGTON AVENUE 169m/554f, 36 stories, 2002
9. TWO INTERNATIONAL PLACE 164m/538f, 35 stories, 1992
10. ONE POST OFFICE SQUARE 160m/525f, 40 stories, 1981

There was a fair number of office buildings built in the 1980s and 1990s, but at least one of those that was built stood partially filled for several years (One International Place, if I’m not mistaken).

If you know me, you know I love development. In fact, I think there should be at least twenty to fifty more buildings, from six to ten stories, all over the downtown area (mostly apartments and condo buildings).

Now, notice the photo the Boston Redevelopment Authority released when the Mayor announced his proposal.

You see the huge tower in the middle? That’s the new tower (is it supposed to look just like Daniel Libeskind’s “Freedom Tower”?).

That’s not the disturbing part to me. The disturbing part is that, to either side of the tower, on the far left and far right, there are silver buildings. These are buildings as yet to be built, if I’m seeing them right. In fact, I think these are buildings that haven’t even been approved, yet.

But, now, we have the Mayor and BRA talking about a huge tower in the middle.

It’s a bit premature, wouldn’t you say?

Source: Mayor urges 1,000-foot skyscraper – By Thomas C. Palmer Jr., The Boston Globe

Also: Menino to developers: Reach for the sky – By Scott Van Voorhis, The Boston Herald

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Updated: January 2018

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