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The push and pull of Boston development, shadows and all

A conceptual rendering of the proposed Longwood Place on Brookline Avenue and Pilgrim Road in Boston.SCD Pilgrim Road Master Planner LLC/ Skanska USA Commercial Development Inc

‘Shadow war’ was waged and won 50 years ago, but we’re still fighting

Re “Is a truce possible in Boston’s shadow wars?” (Opinion, Jan. 27): The image of New Yorkers unfurling umbrellas to protest shadow impacts is dramatic and theatrical. However, Renée Loth might have chosen a controversial example closer to home: the five-year battle in the early 1970s over the redevelopment of Park Plaza, when a major project threatened, as Henry Lee, the first chairman of the Friends of the Public Garden, noted, to cast the venerable park in shadow most of the year.

The battle, and it was a difficult one involving just about every political personality of the day, stretched through four different development schemes. Among the casualties was a principled state planner, Miles Mahoney, who was pushed out by Governor Frank Sargent for denying the first two schemes a critical state approval and insisting that the project conform to Massachusetts’ new environmental protection law. Nonetheless, the final proposal was greatly reduced in scale and height. The proposed high-rise towers were eliminated in favor of lower-scaled development, and the Public Garden was allowed to flourish.

How is it then, half a century later, and in a time of presumed environmental awareness and advocacy, that we are arguing over whether a development should conform to existing guidelines or a cherished park, the Back Bay Fens, warrants protection and an equal chance to flourish?


Joe Orfant

Jamaica Plain

Longwood Project could proceed without starving Emerald Necklace of key sunlight

We are grateful for Renée Loth’s attention to this important issue. By highlighting “Boston’s one-off, ad hoc development process,” she points out the key to a better future for the parks. If Mayor Michelle Wu and her team are serious about systematic planning, a true citywide sunshine projection policy must be enacted to support and protect all of Boston’s parkland, environment, and communities. In her State of the City address, the mayor emphasized her desire for a city “more green than concrete.” The sunlight is what keeps our parks green.


To be clear, the Emerald Necklace Conservancy is supportive of Simmons University’s goals. However, the latest configuration for five tall buildings would cast too much shadow on our public parks, up to two and a half hours in some areas. There are ways the Longwood Place project could and should go forward while keeping necessary sunlight for the permanent public open space of the Emerald Necklace.

This is a major project. Longwood Place’s planned square footage is one-and-a-half times the size of the Prudential Center. If the proposal is further refined with lower buildings and site modifications, more sunlight could be preserved on the Emerald Necklace.

Karen Mauney-Brodek


Emerald Necklace Conservancy


If Boston is to meet its housing goals, projects must not be held up

Renée Loth wrote a good column about Boston’s complicated shadow laws concerning building projects. If Boston wants to meet its goals of creating more housing and generating more revenue for this housing, building has got to be made easier. Longwood Place is an example of development that would help the city. The Winthrop Center tower is another example of development that contributed millions of dollars to housing and local parks. Unfortunately, projects like these take decades in Boston. Who knows how many good projects go elsewhere because of the city’s Draconian regulations? This has got to change for Boston to begin to meet its goals of more housing.

Harry Johnston


Sunshine is vital to the well-being of green spaces and the people who use them

Without a shadow of a doubt, Boston is better off when our city, its people, and its shared public spaces can grow together.


When it comes to planning and development processes that are often unpredictable and lead to unintended consequences in regard to the public good, perhaps sunshine is the best disinfectant. Sunshine is a critical element for the well-being of our green spaces, not to mention our own mental health. The sunlight that supports the trees and other plants in our parks allows these spaces to be the lungs of our city that clean the air and the urban umbrellas that offer respite from the heat.

Parks across Boston serve as the soul of the city and are sites of countless events, public gatherings, and private moments while being called upon to serve the recreational and restorative needs of millions of people. Through the decisions we make today that shape our urban environment, we’ll reap what we sow, together.

Elizabeth Vizza


Friends of the Public Garden