A multi-million-dollar view

The other night, a roving UHub photographer managed to rove himself right up to the current top of the Millennium Tower under construction where Filene's used to be and shares some of the views from up there - in a building where at least one top-level condo is being marketed at $37 million.

The view towards Back Bay and the other towers put up by Millennium Partners - the Ritz Carlton down Washington Street:

Boston towers at night from the Millennium Tower

The Charles River side of the Back Bay:

Back Bay at night from the Millennium Tower

When completed, the Millennium Tower will, well, tower over the State Street building:

State Street tower from Millennium Tower

Christopher Columbus cleans up quickly

Matt Conti at NorthEndWaterfront.com forwarded this photo of the defacement of the Christopher Columbus statue in Columbus Park some time last night.

By noon today, the paint and message were completely gone after a thorough power washing by a city crew.

Over the years, the statue has been marked up by people with a point to make - once, the statue was even decapitated.

Boston 2024 plans call for massive Widett Circle redevelopment even if we don't get the Olympics, plus tax breaks for the developer

Boston 2024's "2.0" plan for Widett Circle calls for tearing down all the existing facilities in the 83-acre area and turning it into 8 million square feet of office and residential use with the hope Boston gets the Olympics, but under a plan that would continue even if we don't get the games.

The plan for Midtown is viewed as a plan that would proceed with or without the Olympics. Based on that understanding, all land assembly actions are being taken to allow for and facilitate either path. ... These agreements will hold the parcels until the IOC site designation decision in 2017 and then be transferred to a master developer either in an Olympic scenario or a no-Olympic scenario.

The proposal calls for selection of a single developer for the entire 20-year build out, who would be expected to commit to $1.2 billion up front for improvements - notably a giant deck to support construction above rail lines, a rail yard and a bus yard - in exchange for pre-approved city zoning for the project and at least 40 years of tax breaks for the work. Or as Boston 2024 puts it:

We have estimated a $1.2 billion investment by the initial developer that is selected to build and finance the proposed infrastructure, land assemblage and relocation needs, and deck on the 83-acre site. To be selected via a competitive process guided by the City of Boston, the developer will be requested to guarantee cost and completion of the proposed infrastructure, Plaza, and related improvements and provide 100% of the $1.2 billion capital, to be secured by a credit-worthy guarantee. In return for this financial commitment, the developer will benefit from a project that will be fully zoned and entitled with a master development plan, yet with a flexibility of uses to allow for the future development of approximately eight million square feet of mixed-use including, residential, retail, office, hotel, and other related uses; and a tax agreement in place to allow for a gradual increase of real estate tax levels.

Although a tax-reduction agreement would have to be negotiated between the city and the developer, Boston 2024 says a good idea would be for the city to waive 85% of the estimated taxes in the first ten years of the new development, gradually decreasing to 25% 30 years later.

Boston 2024 says that even with tax breaks - similar to those negotiated with Liberty Mutual for its new headquarters in the Back Bay, but far larger - the city would still see a huge increase in property-tax revenue by 2040, from roughly $1.8 million if the land were not touched, to $25 million.

If Boston does get the games, the master developer would likely build up to 1.7 million square feet of new buildings even before the Games open, Boston 2024 says.

The plan relies on the state or developer spending $166 million in transportation-related upgrades, including $96 million to build a new Widett Circle stop on the Fairmount Line and upgrading Broadway station and several of the roads in the area.

Neither the deck construction nor the transportation improvements are included in Boston 2024's overall $5 billion budget for the games.

The plan also still calls for turning Dorchester Avenue from the site to South Station into a new "Olympic Boulevard," even though that would require approval of the US Postal Service, which has long blocked public access to the former part of the avenue that runs past its giant South Boston postal annex. State officials want to move the annex elsewhere to expand South Station, but the postal service has shown little recent desire to move.

Boston 2024 Widett Circle development plan (82M PDF)

State to buy 325 new buses for the T

MassDOT today approved a $222.2 million contract to replace the T's current fleet of 325 CNG buses with a new fleet of CNG/hybrid buses.

New Flyer, Inc., of Winnipeg, is expected to start delivering the 40-foot buses, many of which will run out of the Forest Hills yard, in July, 2016, with all buses in service a year later.

The federal government will pick up 80% of the cost.