Winthrop Square developers cut height of building rather than piss off the FAA

Oh, looks like Millennium Partners was playing that fun developer game where they try to see how much they can get away with. The Globe reports they've agreed to take 70 feet off their proposed Winthrop Square tower because of FAA concerns about the building getting in the way of a Logan Airport flight path - something they and the city and probably half the known universe knew about months ago, but they still filed plans for a building that was taller than the FAA would like.



Free tagging: 


That's the spin.

The property, which was owned by City of Boston, was sold by BPDA. Instead of specifying the FAA height limit in their request for bids they left out many known requirements in an effort to maximize profit. The mayor supported changing shadow law to permit the building height Millennial Partners wanted. The top floors would be luxury condos. Marty got shadow laws changed on Beacon Hill.

The P in BPDA stands for planning. BPDA planned to permit the buyer to build a tower tall enough to shutdown a runway at Logan permanently. I'd call that a planning failure, how about you?


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Or maybe they planned that a potential developer of a 90 jillion dollar project would do due diligence.

Or maybe they planned to extract as much money for the project as possible to benefit Bostonians (the B in BPDA stands for Boston), knowing full well that the FAA would enforce the height restriction one way or another.

Or maybe they were willing to let the developer and FAA work out a plan whereby a taller building would be permitted.


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I would love to see that runway permanently closed for takeoffs, or at least seriously restricted. The building would not prevent landings. This is the runway most responsible for the noise complaints from Roxbury, JP, Roslindale and Milton which have increased significantly since 2013 when the FAA approved greater use of this for early morning takeoffs.

Early morning noise.

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I'm glad for any reason given to reduce the height of the next Millennium Tower.
But you are right about more restrictive use of that runway. I think it may be the same one that the extremely noisy low flying early morning planes use over the Harbor Islands State park as well. People head to these islands to escape city noise pollution and instead are jolted out of their sleeping bags at 6am.

Sure, but

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As a camper myself I can have some sympathy for the scores of people sleeping a few months of the year on the Harbor Islands. However that is nothing compared to the greater concern of the impact to the tens (hundreds?) of thousands affected by flights under full power on takeoff flying low over Roxbury/JP/Dorchester/Roslindale/Hyde Park/Milton.

The collective loss of sleep of those awoken at 5 AM should be considered a public health concern.

Half the known universe

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Knew about this and they filed anyway?

Hmmmmm, why do I think the city may never see their $150 million even though the shorter building still violates shadow laws?

Must have had a meeting w the developers at TD Garden.

Adam is Spot On

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Massport published a map showing acceptable building heights in 2011. Developers know about it. Millennium ignored it.

Massport send a letter to the state secretary of energy and environmental affairs on the matter in Dec. 2016. Millennium ignored it.

Only when the FAA got involved did Millennium back down. Because the next stop likely was court, and bad publicity.

Is this going to affect the

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Is this going to affect the funds that are supposed to go to various needs of the City as promised in the deal between MP and the City of Boston?

Law requires compliance with

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Law requires compliance with FAA. Any halfway competent Registered Architect or Professional Engineer knows this. Any halfway competent Registered Architect or Professional Engineer practicing in Boston knows that there is an airport close enough to that site that heights near approach/departure traffic is a potential issue.

At the same time, there can be wriggle room. Legislation & lobbying can push the letter of the law a little bit.

Also, enforcement can be a bit spotty or arbitrary. I was involved with a construction project near an airport once. New building, three or four stories tall, about 1/2 mile from the end of a minor runway at a major airport. FAA gave some static about the height/profile, so designer spread out profile and lowered it a tiny bit, moved some hvac off the roof.

I don't know if FAA liked it when designer asked them about the existing, five-story hotel that was taller than ours and almost exactly halfway between our site and the runway. Pre-existing structure, so not a problem in that sense, but - the owner had just given the drab, decades-old cinderblock building a facelift, including a fake parapet that raised the edge of the building by 8 or 10 feet. If our project was a problem, his definitely should have been a problem.

I don't know if the owner did it without (FAA) permits or got told by somebody it was okay or had an arrangement with somebody.

The interesting p.s. is that I just went through street views of that hotel - and that parapet has been gone for years. ;-)

What Law

What's the specific law which would prohibit this building height? I'm not debating the existence of one but it would be interesting to read the actual statute.

Title 14 of the Code of

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Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations CFR Part 77.

Worth noting that the statute doesn't technically say "you can't build a building this height." It just gives the FAA the power to determine what heights are ok depending on the location.