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Winthrop Square Tower Clears State Hurdle In Face Of Influential Opposition

The original rendering of the Great Hall at Millennium's proposed tower

Despite last-minute opposition from Massachusetts’ Secretary of the Commonwealth, the state’s Joint Committee on Municipalities and Regional Government recommended approval of a home-rule petition to allow a downtown skyscraper to skirt existing shadow laws. 

Nine members supported moving the measure forward to let Millennium Partners build a 775-foot tower in Winthrop Square, the Boston Business Journal reports. The building drew early criticism because it would cast new shadow across Boston Common and the Public Garden in early morning hours. Boston leaders, including Mayor Martin Walsh, support the project because the city would get $153M from the sale of the city-owned garage currently on the site of the proposed tower. 

Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin had urged caution Tuesday in a letter to the joint chairs of the committee who recommended approval of the petition. Galvin said the tower would cause “great damage to historic buildings” downtown. Galvin leads the Massachusetts Historical Commission and said the Millennium project is getting pushed through without enough studies on its impact.  

State Rep. James O’Day (D-Worcester) and state Sen. Michael Moore (D-Worcester) said the passing of the home-rule petition in the Boston City Council with 10-3 approval was a sign of strong city approval for the project. 

“Certainly the issues that Secretary Galvin has raised are not lost on this committee by any stretch of the imagination,” O’Day told the BBJ. “But what I think is important to stress is that this is a big project. There’s going to be lots of jobs involved with this project, and it’s going to take time for all of it to be vetted and to be unfolded. Releasing this bill from the committee on municipalities and regional government is only one step of a number of steps that are also ongoing simultaneously.”