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Hines Must Get State Approval For SST Or Lose Rights

The developer behind a proposed 51-story skyscraper over New England's busiest rail hub received final city approval Wednesday morning, but it must reach an agreement with the state by the spring or forfeit the rights to build.

Rendering of Hines' planned tower at South Station

The Boston Planning & Development Agency’s zoning commission unanimously approved Hines' South Station air rights project at its meeting. The multiphase project includes a 690-foot mixed-use tower in Phase 1 that was first approved in 2006 as an office-only building.

After financing dried up amid the Great Recession, the project stalled until last year, when the Houston-based developer returned with a slightly redesigned tower now housing offices and residential condos.

“This is a much more appropriate and architecturally pleasing gateway to Boston,” said David Perry, head of Hines’ Boston office, in a presentation to the zoning commission. 

Approval for the transit-oriented development comes one day after Mayor Martin Walsh presented his Go Boston 2030 transportation plan. Encouraging better use of and enhancing the transit hub downstairs, developers have capped new parking at the development at 571 spaces and plan to expand South Station’s bus terminal by 50%. 

The tower would enhance the South Station passenger experience with covered train platforms.

Perry told the zoning commission he expects to begin construction on the first phase quickly, as all of the project’s financing is secured. Because foundations were laid at South Station in the 1980s for a future air rights project, train service is expected to run normally for the duration of construction.

Hines will build with an eye to the future, as South Station expansion and the North-South Rail Link are both being studied. The developer will keep an area open for added tracks at the train hub and maintains the complex would not prevent the deep NSRL tunnels from being built. 

“We have had extensive consideration of North-South Rail Link,” Perry said.

South Station Tower from Interstate 93 south

While the board enthusiastically approved the project and members hailed its ability to enhance the passenger experience at the station, it is not a done deal. Per its original development arrangement with MassDOT, Hines could lose its development rights if it does not get state approval and commence building by April 30.

“MassDOT continues to have conversations with the developer of the proposed air rights project, and no decision has been made considering whether this project has been ‘approved,'" MassDOT spokesperson Patrick Marvin said in a statement.