Boston's building boom is reaching new heights

BOSTON — Boston is growing up — literally.

A number of super-sized buildings have either opened recently or are working their way through the zoning process.

This summer, One Dalton Place opened in the Back Bay. With 60 stories, it’s the tallest building to go up in city in the last 50 years.

“Boston is a booming city,” said Amy Korte, president of Arrowstreet, an architectural firm. “The pressures to go vertical are really relative to the amount of space that’s available in downtown Boston. We can’t build out, so we build up."

Chris Betke, chair of the Leather District Neighborhood Association, isn’t happy this trend is now impacting his neighborhood.  He’s concerned about a proposal for 125 Lincoln Street which is right next to Chinatown.

The original proposal by Oxford Properties called for a 340-foot building.  This project is still being reviewed by the Boston Planning and Development Agency.

“The height will be so significant that it will effectively block us off from other neighborhoods and that’s important because we all lived downtown with the Big Dig for years, and one of the expected outcomes of the Big Dig was to stitch together neighborhoods that had been separated by the Central Artery,” said Betke.

Betke explained that under current zoning law, an 80-foot structure would be acceptable.  By meeting certain design criteria, a 100-foot building could also get the green light.

A spokesperson for Oxford Properties provided this statement regarding the 125 Lincoln Street proposal:

"This is a critical location for Chinatown, the Leather District and the City as a whole, offering the opportunity to strengthen the urban fabric by better connecting these areas with an improved public realm.  The proposed development takes advantage of proximity to both transit and the Financial District to create a project at this location that delivers jobs and economic benefits to the City. Additional benefits include a number of shared community priorities, including a significant contribution to affordable housing and a commitment to neighborhood retail.  We look forward to collaborating with the community to address comments as this process moves forward."

As an older city, rooted in history, Boston is considered pretty short. Korte thinks adding variety, and height, to the local skyline, sends a good message that the city might appreciate its history but isn’t trapped in the past.

“If you think about when the Hancock building was constructed, that met a lot of resistance at the time,” said Korte. “If we fast-forward 40-50 years, that building has become iconic and synonymous with what the Boston skyline means today.  Opinions change, perceptions change.”

But folks in the Leather District are more concerned with the impact today.  “It’s going to be bad, because you’re plopping down a giant building in a neighborhood,” said Betke.

For now, 200 Clarendon Street, known to most Bostonians as the Hancock, remains the city’s tallest building at 790 feet.  It has 60 stories.