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Boston Mayor Withdraws Support From Proposed Waterfront Skyscraper Plan

Citing the need for urgent action against climate change and equal access to the city's waterfront for all residents, Boston acting Mayor Kim Janey announced she is withdrawing the city from an agreement with developers to construct two skyscrapers along 42 acres of Boston's waterfront.

Janey also called upon the state to withdraw its support for the 2017 agreement negotiated by then-Mayor Marty Walsh and the Boston Planning and Development Agency.

"Our waterfront is one of our most valuable assets," Janey announced at a news conference Thursday. "The downtown waterfront should provide access to all of Boston residents."

The waterfront development plan, which Janey said did not adequately address rising sea levels, called for a 600-foot skyscraper near the New England Aquarium and a 300-foot building on the current site of the James Hook Lobster Company.

Highlighting dire warnings from the Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change's report published earlier this month, Janey called this moment "a turning point."

She also announced plans to change the city's zoning rules, for low-lying areas along the harbor, to require they be protected against a 40-inch rise in sea level. Without the harbor plan, the developer of the skyscraper, the Chiofaro Company, would not be allowed to build a structure taller than 150 feet — a limit the developer has said would make the project financially unviable.

Janey further said she plans to seek funds from developers of the Raymond Flynn Marine Park to help pay for the $124 million to protect the 191-acre site.

This spring, in a bombshell decision, a Superior Court judge ruled the state had wrongly approved the harbor plan. The Conservation Law Foundation and other local organizations initially filed the suit against the Chiofaro Company and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection in 2019, claiming the state violated its obligation to keep requirements for a new waterfront building to "relatively modest in size."

In a written response to Janey's withdrawal, the Chiofaro Company said, "the urgency for climate action is undeniable," adding, the company looks forward to discussions making the downtown waterfront “more resilient, equitable, accessible and economically vibrant."

Janey said she will meet with a wide variety of stakeholders to understand their diverse needs and ideas. She and the other four major candidates for mayor this year all called for the Harbor Development Plan to be withdrawn.

The Baker administration said it will respond "and determine the next steps," when it receives a formal request from the city to withdraw from the harbor plan.

Janey anticipated the political and business-interest headwinds her decision would face.

"I understand the challenges of reassessing our plans for the city's waterfront, and I am sympathetic to them," Janey said, "but we have to act with urgency."

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Bruce Gellerman Twitter Senior Reporter
Bruce Gellerman is an award-winning journalist and senior correspondent, frequently covering science, business, technology and the environment.

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