Public meetings are far and away one of the most interesting things you can participate in as a resident. Last night, I went to the public meeting held by the Boston Redevelopment Authority for the Copley Place Retail Expansion and Residential Addition. The nitty gritty details can be found at the BRA’s website, but the long and short of the project is as follows: Simon Properties, who owns and operates the Copley Place Mall, is seeking to expand its retail offerings on the order of 115,000 sq. ft. of retail expansion (about half of which is an expansion of the Neiman Marcus at Copley Place), the construction of a winter garden on the corner of the site, and 670,000 sq. ft. of new residential space in the condo tower above spread out among 318 residential units.
To get my personal bias out of the way first: I love this project. I think it’s a beautiful building, a worthy project, a near perfect location, and it will be the next notable piece of Boston’s skyline, which is in desperate need of some updating.
Not everyone at the meeting felt the same way.
The issues brought up ranged from not enough affordable housing on-site as part of the project to too many shadows to Simon Properties (who owns and operates Copley Place) not being a good neighbor to concerns about accessibility for individuals with disabilities. Each of these issues is, to a varying degree, a legitimate concern, but I thought the representatives from Simon Properties and Elkus Manfredi Architects addressed each concern well enough both as part of the presentation and with the design elements of the project.
This project represents a huge investment in Boston, and has a lot of positive aspects: 1700 construction jobs, 250 permanent jobs, $250,000 for public art installations in and around the project, $7.2 million in new property tax revenue, $22 million in new retail sales, and improvements to the Southwest Corridor Park between Dartmouth and Harcourt Streets. Overall, Simon Properties is making a $500 million investment in the city at a time when some developers are waiting for a handout.
If Boston wants to be a global city, this is what we need. We need to show that we are willing to build new buildings and continue to have our urban space evolve and expand. By building up in some places, we can make sure that other areas like the Back Bay and the South End can preserve their neighborhood characteristics but not at the cost of stopping development across the city.
I, for one, look forward to this new addition to Boston’s skyline.
– Nick Downing, Future Boston Program Manager
Elkus Manfredi Architects/Steve Dunwell Photography