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Copley Place high-rise, facing opposition, stalls

The project, which includes a 52-story tower and a larger Neiman Marcus, was proposed nearly seven years ago. Elkus Manfredi Architects

Cranes and skyscrapers are springing up all over Boston, but a massive development proposed for Copley Place still isn’t any closer to breaking ground after almost seven years of planning.

The project, a 52-story tower and an expanded Neiman Marcus department store, was scheduled to receive approval Thursday by the Boston Redevelopment Authority but was pulled from the agenda at the last minute because of continued neighborhood opposition. The developer, Simon Property Group, has repeatedly clashed with housing activists over how many of the tower’s residential units would be priced as affordable.

The tower would have 542 units of housing, of which 76 would be affordable. Community groups have been pressing for a much higher percentage, and the BRA elected to hold off approval because of the opposition.


“We’ve had a series of conversations with the developers and community members,” said BRA spokesman Nick Martin. “It was clear that there wasn’t just the level of consensus we expect of the project to go before the board.”

Neighbors and activists want 25 percent of the units in the tower, about 135, to be affordable, more than required under city rules.

“This is a small victory for the community, but it’s not a victory in the terms of what we’re asking for,” said Representative Byron Rushing, the Democratic state legislator whose district includes the project site.

Simon Property, which owns and manages Copley Place, proposed expanding the mall and adding a residential tower in 2008. The company had even prepared materials for Thursday’s BRA meeting that showed a complex similar to what it had previously designed, including 690,000 square feet of condos and apartments and more than 100,000 square feet of additional space for Neiman Marcus.

Simon has pointed to the millions of dollars in commitments it has made that would benefit neighborhood associations, nearby parks, artists, and the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.


A spokeswoman for Simon declined to comment Thursday.

Representative Jay D. Livingstone, a Back Bay legislator, said Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s administration has done an admirable job of hearing people’s concerns. He said neighborhood groups and the developers would eventually find common ground.

“I think with further discussion there will be a resolution,” he said.

Jack Newsham can be reached at jack.newsham@globe.com.