Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Stop Simon Properties Group & Neiman Marcus' "Jim Crow" Skyscraper Reconstruction Project at Copley Place in Boston's Back Bay: Part 1

In its 2008-filed "Project Notification Form," the debt-ridden, Indianapolis-based Simon Properties Group owner of shopping malls claimed its Stuart Street and Dartmouth Street Copley Place Reconstruction/”Neiman Marcus Tower” project "promotes Boston's affordable housing objectives." Yet Simon Properties Group provided no evidence in its "Project Notification Form" that 25% of its proposed new 320 residential units on the Copley Place project land will be affordable to low-income residents of Boston or that the residential population of its proposed 47-story skyscraper will reflect the current racial diversity of the City of Boston.

But in its "Project Notification Form," Simon Properties Group [SPG] did admit that if its skyscraper is built, during the lunch period of the workweek when Copley Square is most frequently used by local office workers in the autumn, 20 percent of Copley Square will then be under a shadow. As page 3-2 of the "Project Notification Form" noted:

"From October to February, additional shadow resulting from the Project will reach Copley Square...around 12:00 noon...affecting...20% of the area of Copley Square at any one time. From November to February 23, new shadow from the Project will sweep across Copley Square starting around 11:00 a.m., again affecting...20% of the area of Copley Square at any one time."

SPG also indicated that an uncomfortable new wind tunnel along Stuart Street will be created if its skyscraper is built. As page 3-2 of its "Project Notification Form" observes: "Wind conditions along Stuart Street may...require...mitigation due to the...channeling effect between the Project and surrounding existing buildings, which could increase pedestrian level horizontal wind..."

If Simon Properties Group is allowed to start building its luxury condominium skyscraper on Stuart Street and Dartmouth Street, for at least 3 years (between 2012 and 2015) around 1,700 construction workers will be disturbing the quality of life between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. each weekday for commuters, local residents, local office workers and local hotel guests and shoppers. And, as the "Project Notification Form" also noted, to construct SPG’s skyscraper "night hours will be required as determined by the Mass Turnpike Authority for work on the Mass Pike," which will disturb the quality of life for local residents and local hotel guests during the night.

Since the new residents of the 272 luxury condominium units in SPG’s planned skyscraper are each expected to own at least one automobile, nearly 15 percent of the 1,558 parking spaces now controlled by Simon Properties Group in the Copley Place Center and Tent City (Dartmouth) garages will then be just reserved for the new residents of the Stuart and Dartmouth Street “Neiman Marcus Tower,” if the project is built. The number of available parking spaces for use by local workers, local shoppers and local residents in the Copley Place Center and Tent City (Dartmouth) garages will thus be decreased by at least 297, since at least "297 parking spaces will be reassigned to provide parking for the residential units," according to page C-1 of the "Project Notification Form."

If Simon Properties Group is allowed to begin its three-year Copley Place reconstruction project, negative "air-quality impacts from fugitive dust may be expected during the early phase of construction and during demolition," according to page 3-6 of SPG's "Project Notification Form." In addition, "The Project will generate solid waste;" and "solid waste generated" by SPG’s Back Bay-South End skyscraper project "will be approximately 1,010 tons per year," according to Simon's "Project Notification Form" of 2008

In addition to possibly creating nighttime traffic problems on the Mass Pike when Simon's construction workers are authorized to make noise during night hours, additional daytime traffic jams on Stuart Street and Dartmouth Street may also be created by Simon's project because it will produce decreased automobile lane width at the Stuart Street and Dartmouth Street intersection.

Although Simon Properties's skyscraper will be located very near to a skyscraper which was plagued by unpredictable post-construction problems, the John Hancock Building, the "Project Notification Form" doesn't seem to indicate why its skyscraper won't be plagued by similar unpredictable post-construction problems as was the John Hancock Building. But as the book Skyscraper by Karl Sabbagh observed:

"The windows of the John Hancock Building in Boston provide one example of the unpleasant surprises lying in wait for the best of architects and construction managers. One November day in 1972 a pane of glass fell out of the newly-completed sixty-story building. It was the first of hundreds of panes that were to shower down on the Boston passers-by...It took four years of falling glass for the architects and construction company to decide what to do...The true cause of the failure was never made public...It has been estimated that the total cost of the John Hancock problem, including replacing all 10,344 panes of glass, was more than the original cost of the building, $95 million..."

The same book also recalled that when a skyscraper is constructed:

"The effects of the project will inevitably spread far beyond the boundaries of the site. The constant stream of trucks to and from the site, some bringing concrete, others carrying away rubble to dumps...disrupt...the already busy traffic...Buses sometimes have to mount the pavement to skirt around the trucks...

"The history of construction is littered with disasters caused by a failure to appreciate the impact of loads and forces on steel connections and supports. In July 1981 two walkways in the lobby of the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Kansas City collapsed, killing 113 people and injuring more than 180..."

So, not surprisingly, most of the people who live, work, shop and visit in Boston’s Back Bay and South End neighborhood want to see Simon Properties Group and Neiman Marcus drop their plans for a “Jim Crow” skyscraper of mostly unaffordable, luxury residential units on the Copley Place project's public land.

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