Group Wants To Limit Height Of Boston Buildings Based On Shadow Potential

By WBZ-TV Chief Correspondent Joe Shortsleeve

BOSTON (CBS) – There is a building boom going on in the Boston area, and that is certainly good news for the local economy.

But as the buildings get taller, the shadows they cast get longer. The loss of sunlight doesn’t make everyone happy, however.

Howard Kassler of the Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay worries how shadows could harm public spaces. One morning he pointed out how half of the Boston Public Library in Copley Square was in the dark.

Standing in Copley Square, Kassler said “Once you start lining this area with skyscrapers, it totally changes the picture.”

The Hancock Tower at 790 feet is Boston’s tallest building. The NABB says in the wintertime, when the sun is at a certain angle, the Hancock Tower can cast a shadow all the way to the Boston Esplanade.

“We don’t want to be a junior New York,” said Kassler. “We don’t want to live in a concrete canyon.”

Kassler and other urban activists are supporting a novel approach to curtailing development. It is a bill that would limit the height of future buildings based on their shadow potential.

The bill would target six of the most loved parks in Boston and Cambridge: Copley Square, The Commonwealth Avenue Mall, Christopher Columbus Park, the Esplanade, the Back Bay Fens, and Magazine Beach in Cambridge.

Peter Meade of the Boston Redevelopment Authority thinks this proposal is a bad idea. “It is a usurpation of the rights of Cambridge and Boston by the state, and will halt people’s willingness to invest in the city. It is just another layer of bureaucracy to think about as you go through the development process.”

Cathie Zusy of the Cambridgeport Neighborhood Associating says state law is needed since shadows don’t obey municipal boundaries. She pointed out how the recent addition of towers by Boston University on the Boston side of the Charles River cast shadows on Cambridge.

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