Boston Real Estate for Sale

A proposal for a tower to be built next to and atop the Neiman Marcus department store in the Copley Square neighborhood of Boston is currently slogging its way through the public approval process.

Tent City is a mixed-income housing project directly adjacent to Copley Place.

A board member has written up a suggested “list of concerns” about the project that Simon Properties should pay close attention to.

But, that’s not all he wants; he has another great idea.

From the Boston Herald:

Ken Kruckemeyer, a Tent City board member and MIT professor, contends the landmark mixed-income project, born out of a legendary 1960s neighborhood protest for affordable housing, should have a role in the city’s latest luxury development.

Simon Properties, as is every developer, will be required to comply with the city of Boston’s affordable housing regulations, which will require on-site or off-site affordable housing (up to 15% of total square footage, if I’m not mistaken) or contribute to the city’s housing fund (the figure is either $150k or $250k per unit). The choice is usually the developer’s.

But Kruckemeyer, in an e-mail to fellow neighborhood activists, says the mall owner should include those affordable units in its condo tower, which will include a luxury day spa, health club, library and concierge service.

Here’s the kicker, though:

Kruckemeyer also wants Tent City Corp., which has had a track record of managing and developing affordable housing, to be the one to develop the units.

That’s kind of ballsy. “We think you should be required to build something on site, and, oh, by the way, when you do, we should be in charge.”

Why do I get the idea that all the board member’s “list of concerns” for the developer to approve would simply go away, if he chose Tent City to manage the affordable housing units?

I asked Mr Kruckemeyer about this apparent conflict of self-interest; here is his response, in an email:

This was a combined draft outline, from which Tent City’s letter was written. We believe that affordable housing on-site is a must if the project is to go ahead. The size of the project is a matter of debate and should be determined by the combined wisdom of many. The trade-offs of height, thickness and total square footage, along with shadows all need to be understood. I personally worry least about height.

Tent City is neither absolutely for nor absolutely against the project. “Done right” it could be a good thing and would deserve support. “Done wrong” it should not be built.

Well, that doesn’t answer my question at all, but okay. I guess “Done right” means, “if we’re in charge.”

The Herald message board, never a place for reasoned thought, was alive with criticism. One commenter said:

The Tent City people do not own the property and will not invest their own money in the new building. The land and building are private property. Therefore, the owners can do whatever they want without outside interference. They should not include the so-called affordable housing in the market rate building. Affordable means whatever you can afford to pay. If it is low class housing, then it should be put in a low class area. Not Copley Square.

Or, as another put it:

Why can’t rich people be free to live with other rich people? Is it not my right to live with people as accomplished as I am? I spent years cleaning toilets to afford an education and spent the better part of my career building a lifestyle that I do not wish to enjoy with less capable people. Is that not my right? If you don’t agree with me, what give you the moral authority to force your views upon me and dictate how I must live? There is plenty of affordable housing. The southeast and the midwest have very low property values. Many cities in Greater Boston have low rents. Why must high value property be forced to include low rent housing if the owners of that property don’t want it?

I don’t know about that. It seems kind of evil to suggest that he might be right. It kind of seems logical, too.

Source: Tent City eyes low-cost condos in toney project – By Scott Van Voorhis, The Boston Herald

After the jump, Mr Kruckemeyer’s original email “call to arms”.

By Ken Kruckemeyer, Tent City board member

Construction staging and mitigation_: details need to be described, especially impacts on the Southwest Corridor Park, on adjacent housing and businesses, on transportation facilities and bus operations, and on pedestrian traffic. Coordination with contemporaneous construction projects by others is essential.

Simon’s preliminary study recommends wind tunnel testing and design changes to reduce areas where wind will be “uncomfortable”.

Pedestrian traffic and safety_: Intersection of Dartmouth and Stuart streets is difficult and unsafe to cross. This should be corrected during construction of project. The edges of the project, the west side of Dartmouth Street and the south side of Stuart Street, are strong pedestrian desire lines and should be made more serviceable to all users. This is particularly difficult but important at the exit to the Mass Turnpike, where traffic speed needs to be reduced.

Parking_: New project will share parking facility with Tent City. Further analysis of parking impacts required.

Height_: Some Tent City residents are concerned about height. Back Bay groups are concerned with shadow.

Construction jobs_: Implementation of an aggressive policy to provide construction and ongoing jobs to minority workers should be explicitly defined and carried out.

Minority Businesses_: This seems like a perfect time to showcase minority businesses and to erase the shameful past practice of locating minority business opportunities in “back-of-house” locations.

Snacks for residents_: The developer should have to bring cookies and candies to residents of Tent City, every day. Also, turn down services will be provided every evening, between the hours of 8 – 10 PM.

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