Saturday, December 24, 2011

Stop Simon Properties Group & Neiman Marcus' "Jim Crow" Skyscraper Reconstruction Project at Copley Place in Boston's Back Bay: Part 3

The architect for the proposed reconstruction/expansion of Copley Place's Neiman Marcus anchor retail store stated at a late 2007 or early 2008 community meeting at the Boston Public Library that in the early 1980s "we had always planned to build" the luxury condominium skyscraper at the proposed Stuart & Dartmouth Street reconstruction site.

Yet in its misleading early 1980s legal response to the Greater Boston Legal Services' complaint to HUD (about using $18.8 million in federal UDAG funds to build the Copley Place project), City of Boston attorneys gave HUD officials (and, subsequently, U.S. federal court judges) no indication that the Stuart & Dartmouth Street corner site was going to be part of a 52-story luxury high-rise residential skyscraper. As the August 11, 1980 “Response By The City of Boston To An Administrative Complaint Submitted By Greater Boston Legal Services To HUD Concerning the Copley Place Urban Development Action Grant” stated:

“III. UIDC Does Require UDAG Funds to Construct Copley Place

“A UDAG grant…has been determined to be warranted by the Boston Redevelopment Authority's review of the Copley Place project…

“Copley Place Will Not Have A Negative Impact On the Special Problems of Low- and Moderate-Income and Minority People

“The overall impact of Copley Place will be positive through the provision of…housing for low- and moderate-income people

“The City also has rent control and condominium conversion ordinances which will help to mitigate the effect of market forces on low- and moderate-income tenants.

“The City of Boston has prepared a detailed response to each point raised in the Administrative Complaint….Copley Place is a project by which Federal funds will leverage substantial private investment to the direct and indirect benefit of low- and moderate-income people, especially members of minority groups. Under these circumstance, HUD will best fulfill its mandate by approving the City's application for UDAG funding. Copley Place deserves HUD's support.

“The Greater Boston Legal Services has filed an Administrative Complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development challenging the City of Boston's application for Federal assistance under the Urban Development Action Grant (UDAG) program….

“Copley Place deserves HUD's support. In fact, as documented in the UDAG application, it is only with HUD's support that Copley Place is feasible….

“With regard to the remaining allegations the City stands firm to its position that the developers of Copley Place require an Action Grant…to undertake this project. The grant request has been carefully analyzed by the BRA and its consultants. This analysis has revealed that the project's cost estimates and income projections are reasonable and that,based on these estimates , the project would not reach a fair level of return without such a UDAG investment…

In conclusion, Copley Place not only meets but surpasses all of HUD's selection criteria. The funding of this UDAG is in keeping with the intent of the program and represents significant achievements in the area of affirmative action…An objective evaluation of this project will demonstrate conclusively that Copley Place should receive UDAG funding.

“Therefore, in light of the evidence presented herein and in the UDAG application, the City of Boston requests that HUD reject this administrative complaint and fund the Copley Place UDAG. ..


“…The developer was exploring sources for public funding as early as the spring of 1978. In a document distributed to the City and State in October, 1978, the developer enumerated approximately $22 million in project site premium costs and stated that they were requesting public funding to defray much of this cost. In addition, the Air-Rights Lease signed December, 1978 between UIDC and the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority makes direct reference to UDAG and other public funding assistance. (Please see Air- Rights Lease, Section 15.13, Certain Governmental Assistance)….

“A UDAG grant…has been determined to be warranted by the Boston Redevelopment Authority's review of the Copley Place project.

“6. Landscaping

“Some of the development site will be landscaped open space dedicated to public pedestrian circulation and to the visual enhancement of the neighborhood. These areas include…the plaza area near the corner of Dartmouth and Stuart Streets…At the Dartmouth/Stuart entrance to the retail center the public mall and plaza entrance will be constructed over the Turnpike deck. This entrance is designed to provide a park-like extension of Copley Square and a gateway to Copley Place …

“10. Dartmouth/Stuart Entrance to Copley Place

“At the Dartmouth/Stuart Street entrance to the proposed retail development, the Turnpike will be decked and a public plaza and mall entrance will be constructed. This entrance will provide a spatial extension of Copley Square and act as a major focal point. The public plaza and mall entrance will cover approximately 21,800 square feet.

“These activities add greatly to the construction costs of the development without adding directly to the cash flow of the project. To confirm its analysis, the BRA retained an independent consultant which has advised it that the developer's costs estimate and income projections are reasonable and that, based on these estimate, the project would not reach a fair level of return without such a UDAG investment. While the project might be able to absorb approximately $9 million of the special site costs, $18.8 million in costs cannot be supported by project income....

“The Boston Redevelopment Authority will be the recipient of the UDAG funds from the City. The BRA will administer the grant and loan portions of the UDAG…

“It is respectfully submitted that contrary to the allegations contained in Part III of the Administrative Complainant, that UDAG funds are in fact necessary to the construction of Copley Place and construction of Copley Place will further the objectives of the UDAG program by…creating opportunities for low- and moderate-income people and minorities



“As for the claim that the program will have an adverse impact on the neighborhood environment by virture of its shadows , it is to be noted that the project contains low- and mid-rise buildings and two 30-story hotel towers . Furthermore , the project does not dominate Copley Square as suggested in the complaint. Instead, it abuts only one corner of the Square and the podium height of the Western International Hotel is harmonious with the height of the Boston Public Library and the Copley Plaza Hotel.

“During the winter months the two hotel towers will cast shadows upon Copley Square as the sun sweeps low on the southern horizon. The brief period of time when the shadow is solely the result of shadows cast from Copley Place will be minimal compared to the existing shadow and duration of shadow cast by the John Haincock Tower and the Prudential Center…

“During the summer, no shadows will be cast by the Copley Place Project on Copley Square or Trinity Church. This coincides with the period of highest use of the square. The complainant implies that "a tremendous volume of casual pedestrian traffic, many of whom came there solely to sit in the sun" will be denied sun by winter shadows cast by Copley Place. It would be more accurate to state that the casual pedestrian in the winter would find some additional shadow during the afternoon…


“Copley Place will have impressive benefits for the City's low- and moderate- income citizensThe project will provide…mixed-income housing… Copley Place deserves HUD's support….”

No comments: