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Neighbors sue to stop work on towers over turnpike

A planned office tower, hotel, and plaza along Mass. Ave. over the Massachusetts Turnpike in the Back Bay.
A planned office tower, hotel, and plaza along Mass. Ave. over the Massachusetts Turnpike in the Back Bay.Elkus Manfredi

Construction began this summer on the first so-called air rights project atop the Massachusetts Turnpike in four decades.

Now, neighbors of the Boston project want a judge to make it stop.

Nearby property owners, including the owners of the Eliot Hotel on Commonwealth Avenue, went to court Friday to halt construction of an office and hotel complex that developer Samuels & Associates is building over the Pike along Massachusetts Avenue. They’re suing both Samuels and the City of Boston, citing “the shambolic character of the city review process” and claiming city officials failed to order new wind, traffic, and other environmental studies after Samuels redesigned the project partway through Boston Planning & Development Agency review.

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It’s unclear whether the suit will derail the $700 million development, which started in July with preliminary work to build a deck over the Pike. From that deck, Samuels says, will rise a 20-story office tower and a 13-story hotel, along with sidewalks, plazas, and bike lanes on a busy, windblown stretch of Mass. Ave.

But those buildings, say two residents of the 360 Newbury Street condo building across the street, will block views and sunlight, generate intense winds, and worsen conditions for pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers on a key city thoroughfare. Those impacts, they claim, were not properly restudied after Samuels made changes to the project midway through city review, as developers of large projects in Boston often do. The neighbors were joined in a lawsuit challenging the project by the nearby Eliot Hotel, which worries that relocating a turnpike on-ramp for the project could hamper delivery truck access. The hotel’s attorney said it “could force this almost century-old institution to shutter its doors.” It has asked a Suffolk County judge to halt construction while the suit is considered.

Samuels, which worked for years to plan the project and has a lease in place with Cambridge-based CarGurus to occupy much of the office tower, was undeterred. A spokeswoman Friday noted that these same neighbors have thrown up several challenges already — all unsuccessful — and predicted this new one will be denied as well.

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“We are confident that all appropriate processes were followed and the suit is completely baseless,” the company said.

A BPDA spokeswoman declined comment.


Tim Logan can be reached at timothy.logan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @bytimlogan.