Developer Lowers Height of Millennium Tower in Boston

By John Lynds

It may be one of those rare historic occasions when the community, elected officials and Massport are all on the same page and fighting for the same cause.

There was near panic last week when reports showed that the proposed 775 foot Millennium tower in Winthrop Square in Boston would have an adverse affect on Logan Airport air traffic around East Boston and surrounding communities.

Massport was the first to oppose the proposed height in a comment letter to the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs during the project’s MEPA process the Port Authority’s Deputy Director Stewart Dalzell strongly objected to the 775 ft. proposed height because the tower exceeded the 710 ft. height limit as defined by the Boston-Logan International Airport

Composite Map of Critical Airspace Surfaces. Dalzell urged Millennium Partner LLC to explore alternatives to the proposed height.

In his letter, Dalzell said the 775 ft. height would significantly impact Runway 27 departures.

“The proposed structure will penetrate the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) existing Runway 27 departure corridor,” he wrote. “A building taller than 710 ft. above mean sea level at this location would significantly reduce the capacity of the remaining airspace.”

This would lead, said Dalzell, to airlines shifting departures to Runway 33L. This is the runway, when used for departures, creates very loud air traffic noise over Eagle Hill and Chelsea. Dalzell said this would lead to a reduction in the quality of life for residents here.

Following Dalzell’s letter, letters from residents and pressure from Eastie’s elected city and state elected officials, Millennium Partners announced Monday evening it would reduce the proposed height of the building to 702 ft., ten feet below the Boston-Logan International Airport Composite Map of Critical Airspace Surfaces.

“As part of the review process for the Winthrop Square project, Millennium Boston has received a Notice of Presumed Hazard from the FAA in regard to the height of the building,” said Joe Larkin of Millennium. “This is standard procedure, and we are appreciative of the agency’s guidance that a tower in excess of 702 feet could result in some diversion of flights under existing airport operations and would require further study.  We’ve consulted at great length with Mayor Walsh and the Boston Planning and Development Agency, and we will not be proposing a building that has any impact on flight paths in or out of Logan International Airport.”

In a statement, Massport said “although we (the Port Authority) are not the regulatory agency, at 702 feet (mean sea level) this is a good outcome for the communities and the traveling public.”

In a joint statement Rep. Adrian Madaro and Sen. Joseph Boncore said they were glad the Winthrop Square development would not affect air traffic over Eastie or its surrounding communities.

“We worked with the developer, the City of Boston, and Massport to ensure the project complied with the FAA’s safety recommendations,” said the two elected officials in the statement. “The bill passed last month did not legislate the height of the project. Rather, it clarified the state’s shadow law and allows the City to begin the review process for the development.”

Even at 702 ft., Millennium is still subjected to the Boston Planning and Development Agency’s Article 80 large project review process, an extensive Impact Advisory Group process as well as MEPA reviews. As the project moves forward remaining questions and concerns will have the appropriate forum for issues to be properly addressed and vetted.

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