Saturday, January 14, 2012

Stop Simon Properties Group & Neiman Marcus' "Jim Crow" Skyscraper Reconstruction Project at Copley Place in Boston's Back Bay: Part 10

Simon Properties Group (SPG) now wants to reconstruct the Copley Place project in 2012 by adding a 47-story skyscraper of 320 mostly luxury residential units that will reduce the percentage of low-income residential units on the Copley Place project’s public land to below 16 percent.

Yet the South End and Back Bay neighborhood community benefit that was incorporated into the April 30, 1980 UDAG application and the 1978/80/82 lease/amended lease/sub-lease for the Copley Place Project requires 25% of the residential units on the Copley Place public land to be affordable to low-income and minority tenants. And a Boston Globe article of 12/23/78 by Anthony J. Yudis originally described the planned residential portion of the Copley Place project as "a 150-unit low and moderate income housing development." Following is the complete text of the December 23, 1978 Boston Globe article:

"Gov. Michael Dukakis and the Massachustts Turnpike Authority yesterday signed a long-term lease agreement with a Chicago development firm which plans to build a $250 million residential-hotel-shopping center-office-garage complex in Copley square.

"The lease signing with Urban and Investment Development Co. (UIDC) of Chicago came after more than a year of negotiations by the Chicago firm, the state and representatives of surrounding neighborhoods and organizations.

"Gov. Dukakis, before the signing ceremony, termed the project, Copley Place, `a national model for successful citizens participation in the planning and design of large scale urban projects.'

"The project plans, which now will be going through reviews and negotiations with the city of Boston, would be built over the Massachusetts Turnpike ramp network, a 9.5 acre open site bounded by Dartmouth and Harcourt streets, the Southwest Corridor abutting the South End, and Huntington avenue.

"The commitment calls for an 868-room Western International convention-oriented hotel; two and possibly three major department stores on a five level plan; some 400,000 square feet of smaller-retail shops on a three-level shopping mall; a 1400 to 1800-car garage; a 150-unit low and moderate income housing development and a 600,000 square foot office building.

"Frank Keefe, director of state planning who coordinated the year-and-a-half planning effort, said the lease signing represented a lot of `firsts.'

"He said they included provisions in the lease that commits the development firm to assure the employment of a minimum of 20 percent minority construction workers with `good faith' effor to exceed that figure.

"Kenneth Himmel, project director and vice president for UIDC--a subsidiary of Aetna Life Insurance and Casualty Co.--estimated the project would provide 1300 to 1400 construction jobs during a three-year period.

"The lease also will require that 50 percent of the permanent jobs will go to Boston residents--50 percent of them women; 30 percent minorities and 17.2 percent residents of the immediate impacted area (including Chinatown, South End, Fenway, South Cove, and Back Bay). Himmel said that 6000 to 6500 permanent jobs would be available, depending if two or three department stores are built.

"Also, the state will commit state rent subsidies for 50 existing houses and families in the South End who might be impacted by rising rents as a result of the new project nearby.

"Keefe, mindful of dissent over the project plans from some organizations and neighborhood groups, despite the citizens' involvement, said every effort has been made to come up with a good plan.

"The project was endorsed by the Back Bay Federation for Community Development comprising representatives from the residential and institutional life of the Back Bay, and the Back Bay Assn. The endorsement was coupled with concerns for further refinement in areas of pedestrian access, environmental issues, scale and size, hotel tower location and continuation of the citizens review process. The latter also was made a part of the lease commitment.

"The Back Bay Neighborhood Assn. issued a separate statement, saying the organization supported a development over the turnpike but `does not support the proposed Copley Place project.'

"The organization objects to the size (3.8 million square feet, compared to 2.8 million square feet for the Park Plaza project in Park Square), traffic impact and air pollution.

"Himmel, asked about the unresolved neighborhood concerns, said: `During the first 9 days (1979) we plan to try to resolve our differences. There are some questions on our own minds and I think the direction we go in would be satisfactory.'

"He said there is a possibility of diminishing the size. He anticipated an agreement would be signed in February or March for the hotel with basic site work beginning during the summer.

"In September, work could start on the hotel, retail, office and housing elements, he said.

"Robert Ryan, head of the BRA, which will now inherit the planning process from the state, said he hopes that problems could be resolved in early 1979.

"Under terms of the Turnpike Authority lease, to run 40 years with renewal to 99 years, the Turnpike Authority would receive annual rent ranging from $140,000 in year one, to $920,000 in the 10th through 15th years, with increases after that determined by a formula based on the inflation rate. From the 30th to the 40th years, the rent would be about $2.7 million and after that year the rent schedule would be renegotiated.

"Mayor Kevin H. White's office issued a statement lauding the state's accomplishment. He said his administration is sure that the several remaining steps will be resolved. The jobs the development would bring are crucial to the city, he said. The city is negotiating with UIDC on a tax agreement covering the various buildings to be constructed.

"Also endorsing the program was Greater Boston Convention and Tourist Bureau, Inc., as `the most significant addition to Boston's convention facilities since the construction of the Prudential Center complex.'"

An article by William J. Lewis that appeared in the Boston Herald-American on December 23, 1978 also stated that "the agreement reserves 15,000-20,000 square feet of space for neighborhood-oriented businesses, half of which are to be minority-owned or community development corporations;" and "the development will include a 868-room convention-oriented hotel, two to three department stores, more than 100 shops and restaurants in an enclosed central mall, a 600,000 square foot office building, 1800-space parking garage and 150 units of mixed-income housing."

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