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BOSTON-After over two years of wrangling with everyone from the state environmental office down to local residents, the developers of the Columbus Center project have finally reached the last stage of the state’s environmental review process. Columbus Center Associates, which is comprised of Arthur Winn and Roger Cassin, has submitted the $400 million project’s final environmental impact report to both the state’s executive office of environmental affairs and the city’s Boston Redevelopment Agency.

“We spent a lot of time in this process,” Cassin tells GlobeSt.com. “Our goal was to come out with something that would be feasible.” The project, which is to rise over the Massachusetts Turnpike between Berkeley and Clarendon streets, was developed in a collaboration of sorts with a Citizen’s Advisory Council and underwent countless changes. It had to adhere to a vision that was developed specifically for air rights parcels as well as numerous neighborhood associations and local businesses. “We had a lot of participation,” notes Cassin, “but we went from everyone being against us to having two-thirds of the people for us.”

Initially, the project involved three parcels of land and was going to consist of two towers that would be 33 and 38 stories high. Opposition to the heights of the towers pushed a redesign that had a 29-story tower, a 14-story tower and a seven-story tower. Then the Citizen’s Advisory Council asked the developers to push the one of the buildings back up to 35 stories, so the building could be taller and leaner.

In its final configuration, the project will consist of a 35-story tower at 101 Clarendon St. that will involve 510,000-sf of space, including 160 condominium units, a 200-room hotel, a 30,000-sf health club, 186 parking spaces and ground-level retail space. The next parcel, 100 Berkeley St., will consist of a 14-story building that will have 275,000-sf of space including 216 condominium units, 12,000-sf of ground level retail space and 100 parking spaces. The final developed parcel, 171 Arlington St., will have a five-story building that will step up to seven stories and will consist of 194,000-sf of space, including 141 residential units, an 8,800-sf day care center and a 10,800-sf grocery store. These buildings will surround a four-story, 633-car parking garage. At the last minute, the developers agreed, at the request of the Turnpike Authority, to create a small park of 11,350 sf of landscaped open space in the adjoining parcel, across Arlington Street.

Cassin points out that initially planners thought there was no economically viable way for the last two parcels to be developed. He also notes that some of the buildings needed to be at least 24 stories to cover the costs of developing the deck that will extend over the turnpike.

Cassin adds that it is still unclear what the air rights will cost. The Turnpike Authority is charging fair market value, he says, and agreed to a formula based on the value of the air rights minus the cost to develop the decks. The final number won’t be set until the process is completed.

Cassin is confident that the final environmental impact report will be approved by the state. If the project receives its city and state approvals–which should be known by July–then construction can begin in about a year. Preliminary financing has been lined up, says Cassin, but construction contracts are needed before everything can move forward.

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