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BRA approves 52-story tower at Copley Place

Proposed Copley Tower in the Back Bay

Rendering by architect Elkus Manfredi.

The BRA board today approved new plans for a $500-million, 52-story tower atop Copley Place after the mall's owner agreed to add an extra five affordable apartments - an increase housing activists, such as former state Rep. Mel King, said was far from enough.

The BRA had deferred an earlier vote after some housing-activist groups said the 71 proposed affordable apartments in the 542-unit building were not enough.

Activists say Simon Property Group should comply with its original air-rights lease with the state for the land over the turnpike exit, which called for 25% of any units to be affordable - which would have meant 135 units. Simon said it complied with that in a project on Harcourt Street on the other side of the mall, but that its current lease does not call for that.

Board member Ted Landsmark said that while he's grateful Simon will replace the "not very attractive horse" that now sits in front of the mall on Darmouth Street, he was disappointed the developer was no longer willing to meet "the ethical commitment" it made initially for 25% affordable housing because of the "economic segregation" occuring in Boston, where poor people fight market-rate housing in areas such as JP so that they're not priced out of their homes and rich people downtown don't want poor people because they're poor people.

Simon Property Group says it will also spend roughly $20 million on community improvement projects, including intersection work on Stuart Street, $1 million for fixing up Back Bay station, $1 million for public art and $500,000 for the Southwest Corridor park and Copley Square.

In addition to the residential units, the Copley tower will also house an expanded Neiman-Marcus.

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Comments

Why can't we have cool looking buildings instead of bland?

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In the land of 20 story boxes, round buildings are king. Real buildings have curves.

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It appears to be heavily influenced by NYC's lipstick building:
IMAGE(http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2007/07/18/business/18invest-190.jpg)

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We'll wait.

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my nostril hair trimmer.

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It may not be the coolest building in the world, but it's a lot better than all the banal buildings going up in Boston right now.

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Torre Agbar, Barcelona:

IMAGE(http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f5/Torre_Agbar.jpg)

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Among other things. But it is nicer than the one proposed.

Personally, I like the Pinnacle Building. Also in London.

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I grew up near Torre Agbar's location. It is architecturally impressive; however, people in the neighborhood have way too much fun calling it various phallic nicknames.

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This was delayed what 7-8 years

When it takes that long to approve new housing no wonder supply never meets demand and prices continue to skyrocket.

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Zat's jeest how ve du et, hear in ze guvvernmnt'.

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The development was approved by the BRA and BZC on December 14, 2011. So, the last 3.5 years have had little to do with government and all to do with the developer not breaking ground. They decided to make some major changes to the plans this year; these were approved relatively quickly.

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The engineering and costs are unbelievable. Most of the building will be suspended on a deck above the Mass Pike - there is little to no "earth" directly below this (the "hill" in front of Back Bay is actually the tunnel roof and has to be there for highway clearance). The structure will be cantilevered off of a foundation that extends across the street to somewhere closer to the Westin than Neiman Marcus. Like all these projects - the real trick will be a) figuring out how to do this cost effectively and b) THEN figuring out how you do this logistically over an active 6 lane interstate.

There was not a ton of opposition from the neighborhood. Most people I spoke to agreed that this was a great place for a larger development (although some were concerned - myself included that this might be too big - the problem is the financials and the aesthetics don't work well at lower heights) I think the first iteration was very boxy as usual - and wind and shadow were brought up. The curved shape is to help mitigate both of those issues. The next problem was that the base of the building had all the appeal of an aircraft hangar. I haven't seen the recent editions - but I think this was addressed.

Personally I felt that the winter garden should have been facing the Southeast Corridor and they should extend the building to that corner with Neiman going back in where the open space is now - I think it's kind of stupid to put a winter garden on the northern side of a building in almost 24 hour shade/dark - but hey - what do I know. I think the driving factor was keeping Neiman open, not the wisdom of where to put the winter garden.

Not sure I'd want this next to me if I lived in say Tent City - but this will be the only building visible from my bedroom and I think it will be pretty cool - if it ever really gets built.

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Also the exit ramps, the Northeast Corridor and the Orange Line all have to be considered in putting up the building.

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It's sad how every square inch of plaza space around the Prudential and Copley Mall are now being [or have been] festooned with luxury buildings. None of these projects do anything to help housing shortages because they are all built for the upper class [who do not suffer from lack of housing options].

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What is the solution? This is private land as far as I know. In one of the most sought after locations in the city. The land costs millions. The building costs millions. How do developers make money unless they charge high prices to cover the costs? How can you have a $200K condo if it costs $600K to build?

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Exactly. And delaying a development for a thousand years increases the carrying cost of land. If the city wants even a smidge of affordable housing they have to really streamline the whole process

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If all units cost $600K to build:

75% Market Rate: sell them for $800K

25% Affordable: sell them for $200K

still come out ahead

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Lets assume 100 units for the sake of arguing.

Average cost to build $600K (Figure pulled out of my ass but who knows)

75 units Market Rate @ $800K each (60 Million)

25 Affordable @ $200K each. (5 Million)

Average sale price $650K.

A theoretical $50K profit on each of those 100 units right?

Now we have to sell those units. Lets go with 5% commission. Im sure we can maybe get 3-4% if we go with a cheap broker who might take 3 years to sell the building, but 5% is a pretty standard commission.

Thats $32.5K per unit.

So now we are left with $17.5K per unit profit.

Out of that profit, we have to pay our loan. The building cost $65 million. What do you think the interest rate on that is? What do you suppose the mortgage on that costs each month?

We have a building that is completed but 10% of the units are sold. We still need to staff the building. Security, Cleaners, window cleaners (Lots and Lots of windows), utility bills, water and sewer, snow removal, landscaping, maintenance, building manager the list goes on.

Im pretty sure we are well into negative territory before we finished paying the mortgage.

So here we are with a building that cost more to build that it sold for.

And 25 lucky people get to live in a luxury building for a quarter of what everyone else is paying in the building.

It all sounds so remarkably like 2008. Doesn't it?

Or communism.

Im not sure which.

I wonder if we could do this at a restaurant too? Lets make all restaurants have 25% of their meals 75% off for a select lucky few. If its good for building developers, it should be good for everyone else too. Equal protection and all that.

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I wonder if we could do this at a restaurant too? Lets make all restaurants have 25% of their meals 75% off for a select lucky few.

Panera has kinda been toying with this. http://paneracares.org/what-we-do/

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I would be totally fine with a restaurant serving the same meals for less money to people who make less money. If I can afford to pay for the dinner at full price and the meal is worth it to me, letting someone else have it for what they can afford does not affect me unless I'm a petty asshole with nothing better to do than piss and moan. You need to learn how to mind your own business and be less selfish.

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Thank you Karl.
Let me know how that works out for you.

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It's working fine for Panera Cares, as mentioned above by MattM.

Panera has kinda been toying with this. http://paneracares.org/what-we-do/

Move on, troll.

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No one used that plaza because it was one of the most terrible urban spaces in the city. Essentially it's next to a highway off ramp.

Enclosing the space with a winter garden and more retail space is an improvement.

Building housing for the rich does help with housing shortages. Those people would be buying less desirable housing if this wasn't available. Building luxury is a safety valve against gentrification elsewhere. The tax revenue from people which aren't big users of public services also helps prop up the city budget.

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tell that to the people who have been forced out of the South End, JP, Rozzie, Southie, C-Town, Somerville, etc etc...

I see your point but it don't add up.

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Reality is that gentrification in outer neighborhoods and luxury towers downtown are two fairly distinct and unrelated issues. Prices are high because demand is high. It's so high that there isn't a satisfactory way to adequately supply for it. We need to build a lot more housing in outer neighborhoods, and all the hand wringing about what happens downtown over five vs. Fifteen affordable units is a distraction. Those set asides will never solve the problem because there will never be so much luxury housing that the 25% can have an impact.

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The city is building no where near the number of housing units to satisfy the backlog of existing demand, let alone the exponentially increasing demand.

The BRA and the city political machine is too heavily invested in opportunities for graft and power to permit the scale and speed of development needed by the market. We have one of the worst political classes in history and unfortunately the citizenry is too distracted or disinterested in reforming city government into something better than feudal court of goons and jesters.

Until housing is built in sufficient numbers to meet demand prices will not stabilize. Until housing is built in numbers surpassing demand we will not see prices fall.

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You can't deny that developers could often build more affordable units in a project like and still make their profit. Also, one has to wonder if adding luxury units to a city like this merely encourages more a more international wealthy group to crowd in and park their cash in units that will largely remain empty. Meanwhile, the average person is still running around looking for an affordable place to live.

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Speculation (the empty units you describe), is a byproduct of the housing shortage, not the cause. The only way to end it is to build more housing. It doesn't matter if that housing is luxury housing or otherwise as long as it adds to the overall supply. Remember that if a rich person can't find a luxury unit to buy, they don't just go looking in another city, they buy the next most luxurious thing on the market (hell, they'll probably buy two!) and park their cash there instead. They know it will go up in value because we continue to constrain the supply. The investment really has nothing to do with the pool or the granite countertops. It's really all about the shortage.

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and will complement the the two other glassy tall towers going up presently (Filenes tower and Christian Science tower): similar styles and materials, different basic shapes..

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albeit spikey and piebald compared to La Defense.

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Is actually about 71 too many.

There should be 0% "affordable" housing in all developments everywhere. Address the needs of those who require housing assistance on the demand-side, through direct subsidy of rent, rather than on the supply-side, with artificially deflated unit pricing that just drives up unit cost throughout the rest of the property while leading to shenanigans like what happened in Chinatown where developers were able to comply with the requirement by segregating it all into another building.

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Boston could have done better. Another unimaginative tower which adds little to the city and its landscape is not what we need. Yes, developers want to maximize their investment and need to give a fair return on the risk they are taking. However, the city needs affordable housing. Five more units does not qualify as a compromise but a capitulation. Growth at any cost is not the road the city should be taking.

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There's nothing affordable about the Back Bay and probably never will be. Build all you want, units are still going to fetch among the highest if prices in the city -- as others have mentioned, many buyers are wealthy foreigners scooping up investment property. Do you think they give a damn about affordable housing? They aren't even citizens of the US! It's about making top dollar.

Building affordable housing in neighborhoods which have yet to be fully gentrified seems to the most likely of doable options.

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Yes, segregating the poor sounds like a great idea. I'm sure there are no problems with your policy, and it WAS de facto HUD policy for the last 70 years! It must have worked! /s/

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So what exactly DO we need, and who will pay for it?

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Dartmouth St is already very windy. Anyone know how to find the part of any studies about the wind impact?

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Art 80 would have the wind and shadow studies.
now, whether they are accurate is another story

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That tower's shape was redesigned and turned slightly to reduce wind impacts when this project came back on the table in 2013 (I attended the meetings). The reason the tower portions are shaped like beans is to minimize the wind impact.

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A slightly more modern version of the GM headquarters in Detroit? Boston can do better.

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A fitting discussion considering the project's proximity to Tent City.

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Is this going to block the bike path?

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They were convinced by the recession that financing grandiose mega dumps is the way to go.

The loose money trend and use of leverage has given us this world of mergers and mega dumps.And Boston is locked into constant go go mode since it crawled out of the 70s and 80s.

It's a reaction to remembered trauma. One significant risk is inventory overload. Despite the religious faith in mega dump demand, it can take a while for your particular mega dump to sell.

A friend of mine noted that Real Estate is one of the few professions where a criminal record isn't a liability.

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