This story ran on page C3 of the Boston Globe on 12/6/2002.
© Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company.

BRA to raise height limit for financial district projects
By Thomas C. Palmer Jr., Globe Staff, 12/6/2002

Pushing ahead with a proposal that drew heavy criticism last year, the Boston Redevelopment Authority yesterday moved to allow an extra 150-200 feet of height in residential buildings within the financial district.

Following a unanimous vote to recommend the plan yesterday, the Zoning Commission in January is expected to approve up to 350 feet of building height in developments of parcels on a half acre or more that are more than 50 percent residential. The current height limit is 155 feet.

If the housing being built contains 20 percent affordable units, developers could go to 400 feet, according to the new measure, known as a ''residential development area.''

The policy is designed not only to create incentives for development of more housing in the city but also to preserve historic buildings by making them eligible for restoration and expansion.

David A. Carlson, a senior architect at the BRA, said the proposal sent to the zoning board yesterday has been refined and improved since a year ago, when it was quietly promoted by city officials but then hit the media, coming as an unpleasant surprise to some city residents.

Under the revised proposal, the new height would be restricted to a footprint of 10,000 square feet, Carlson said, a significant reduction. BRA officials say that only about a dozen sites in the irregularly shaped district in question would be eligible for taller buildings - and then usually only if multiple parcels were assembled by different owners.

If all the buildings were developed to 350 feet, about 2,500 new units of housing would be created, the city calculated.

The city intends to test the plan in a ''financial district special study area.'' It is bounded roughly by State Street on the north, Tremont and Hawley on the west, Summer on the south, and Purchase on the south and east.

''We know there is residential occurring around the edges,'' Carlson said. ''Right now this is kind of a black hole.''

But Shirley Kressel, a frequent critic of City Hall's development policies, frowned on the new plan. ''This is zoning without planning,'' said Kressel, who cofounded a coalition called Alliance of Boston Neighborhoods. ''If it's about housing, there's plenty of evidence that 150-foot housing projects would be viable.''

In separate actions, the BRA board gave unanimous approval to Harborview Point, a 215-unit residential development in the Yard's End section of the Charlestown Navy Yard, and also gave a go-ahead to Emerson College's new Boylston Street dormitory.

The Charlestown development, which was slated years ago for as many as 334 units, has been reduced in height. Harborview Point, between First Avenue and Boston Harbor, includes one- and two-bedroom units, plus 334 parking spaces.

Thomas C. Palmer Jr. can be reached at

This story ran on page C3 of the Boston Globe on 12/6/2002.
© Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company.

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