What’s Next for the Winthrop Square Development Project?

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On July 28, 2017 Governor Baker approved a home rule petition proposed by Mayor Walsh which changed a Massachusetts law so that a skyscraper could be built over the Winthrop Square garage in Boston, Massachusetts. Obtaining the Governor’s approval of House Bill 3749 was a tremendous challenge that the developer, Millennium Partners has now overcome moving one step closer to the construction of the project.

The incumbent Secretary of State, William Galvin, who also serves as chair of the Massachusetts Historical Commission urged the Governor to veto the bill stating in a July 24, 2017 letter: “It is the conclusion of the Massachusetts Historical Commission that the construction of this building at its proposed height would do great damage to historic buildings included on the National and State Registers of Historic Places, including the State House, public parks, and private residences.”

A proponent of the bill, Boston Planning & Development Agency (“BPDA”) Director Brian Golden thanked the governor for his support of the bill stating “This common sense change will better protect the Boston Common and Boston Public Garden for years to come while allowing a project that will generate hundreds of millions of dollars for Boston’s neighborhoods, parks and public housing to move forward.”

Now, with the Governor’s official approval, one may ask: What are the next for steps the Winthrop Square Development Project? Well, below is some insight as to the process, before the project can move forward.

At this stage, the project will now go through the Article 80 Development Review process with the Boston Redevelopment Authority (“BRA”). In 1996, Article 80 was adopted to make the Zoning Code’s development review standardized throughout the City. The purpose of the development review is to audit the design of real estate development and its effect on the community and City at large. The procedures and standards for this audit are in Article 80 of the Zoning Code. During the Article 80 Development Review, the public is encouraged to get involved via public commentary submissions.

So next up for Winthrop Square, a Large Project Review. The Large Project Review process commences when the developer, or applicant, files a Project Notification Form (“PNF”) with the BRA. This form describes the basics of the proposed development project and is disclosed to the public. Thereafter, the public can submit commentary. After reviewing the PNF and the public comments, the BRA will issue a Scoping Determination. It is at this point that the BRA decides the applicable impacts to study. The impacts analyzed for each project vary depending upon the project’s size, location and use. Some examples are: transportation, environmental protection, urban design, historic resources, infrastructure systems, site plan, and tidelands. Next, the BRA’s Scoping Determination may require the developer to prepare a detailed technical analysis in the form of a Draft Project Impact Report (“DPIR”) for review by the BRA and the public. Based on the BRA’s review of the DPIR and the public commentary, the BRA can issue a Preliminary Adequacy Determination (“PAD”) which hones in on the specific impacts that need to be studied in further detail. The PAD is the pathway to preparation of a Final Project Impact Report (“FPIR”) which will be reviewed by the BRA and also disclosed to the public. At this time, the BRA will hold a public meeting to consider and vote on the project. Depending on the vote, the BRA will issue an Adequacy Determination which can:

(1) Approve the project; (2); disapprove the project; or (3) approve the project with specific conditions. The DPIR and FPIR stages of the review may be waived, but the voting process and public meeting components are never waived. The last step requires the developer to obtain certification of Mitigation Compliance for the project. This document details the fulfillment to date of the terms of the Cooperation Agreement which is the result of the Agreement between the BRA and the developer after completion of the Article 80 Development Review process. The Cooperation Agreement includes the public benefits and mitigation resulting from the development project.

Learn about how you can get involved in the Article 80 Development Review process for all development projects in Boston.

Did you know?

BRA Notices

Article 80 requires the BRA to notify the public of comment periods and BRA board meetings in the following ways:

1.     Publication of a notice in a newspaper of general circulation; and

2.     By sending a copy of the notice to the Neighborhood Council or similar community group for the project are.

Notice to Neighborhood Council

The BRA must also send a copy of the notice to the Neighborhood Council for the neighborhood in which the project is proposed. A Neighborhood Council is a group established by the Mayor to advise the City on issues of neighborhood concern.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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