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letters | eye on the skyline

Skyscrapers are not essential to developing Boston

Jim Adams’s assertion that Boston needs denser, taller development is correct in regard to density but mistaken in regard to height (“Come on, Boston, bring on the skyscrapers,” Letters, July 27). Skyscrapers are by no means essential.

The city I encountered as a college freshman in 1962, with a 12-story height limit and only two skyscrapers (the Custom House and the first John Hancock tower) was much denser than today’s so-called revitalized version. Many European cities whose skylines are still dominated by domes and spires are more intensely developed than present-day Boston.

The erroneous belief that denser development depends on excessive building heights has been fostered by Boston’s perverse Zoning Code, under which landowners can build virtually nothing “as of right” but the sky’s the limit for patient, persistent, and politically astute developers.

A convoluted process involving endless developer proposals, presentations, public meetings, and private negotiations determines what, if anything, actually is built. As a result, new construction in the city is painfully slow and needlessly expensive.


William Buckingham

The writer is an architect.