Three weeks after delaying a vote amid major concerns from neighbors, the Boston Redevelopment Authority Thursday night gave its blessing to a controversial high-rise apartment building in the West End.
The BRA board voted 5-0 to approve a 44-story tower being proposed by Equity Residential on Lomasney Way near TD Garden. The building would bring 470 apartments and underground parking to the site of an aging garage.
The $390 million project has met vocal opposition from neighbors, who say it is too big, too tall, and would bring too much traffic to an already congested part of town. Opponents packed a public hearing last month, when the long-delayed project was originally set for a vote. In an unusual move, BRA board members tabled that vote, asking Equity to address concerns about traffic and affordable housing.
So Equity, which has adjusted the project several times since first proposing it in 2008, came back with more tweaks. It made the proposed building a bit slimmer and eliminated 55 parking spaces. It also pledged an extra $1.2 million toward the city’s affordable housing fund and $1 million toward traffic improvements in the area.
“We think that’s a significant contribution and will help alleviate traffic concerns,” said Equity senior vice president Richard Boales.
That was enough for the BRA. Staff recommended approving the project, and, while board chairman Tim Burke acknowledged neighbors’ concerns, he said it was time to approve the plan.
“We know people are unhappy with this. But there are also people in favor of it,” Burke said. “It’s my opinion, based on the urban planning and design standpoint presented to us by staff, that this project should move forward.”
His four colleagues, with no additional comment, agreed.
Neighbors weren’t happy. About 15 opponents attended the meeting. “The BRA is for sale,” one man yelled as he left the meeting.
Kathleen Ryan, who resigned last year from the project’s Impact Advisory Group over opposition to Equity’s plans, said the tower’s future neighbors aren’t antidevelopment and have supported other big projects nearby. But she said Equity had been too inflexible, and its luxury tower will change too much, too fast in a pocket of the city where many residents have lived for decades.
“We’re all for getting rid of that garage,” she said. “But this is just more luxury and very high rents.”
Equity has said it needs to build a big tower on the site to justify the cost of replacing the garage, and that it has tried to meet neighbors’ concerns. In a statement after the vote, Boales said the West End is “a great neighborhood,” and that Equity was glad to bring more housing to downtown Boston.
“Our goal has always been aimed at bringing a development that will be a great addition to the North Station area,” he said.