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BOSTON-The developers of the Columbus Center project have agreed to another in what has become a series of changes to the $400 million, 1.3-million sf project that will rise above the Massachusetts Turnpike. The project recently received state approval and just needs city approval before it can move ahead.

The changes were worked out between city Mayor Thomas M. Menino and developers Arthur Winn and Roger Cassin. Meredith Baumann, a spokesperson for the city’s Boston Redevelopment Authority tells GlobeSt.com that while the changes do not guarantee that the BRA’s board will approve the project when it meets this Thursday, it “looks optimistic. It’s definitely a much improved project and it has the mayor’s support.”

The changes involve an increase in the percentage of affordable units in the project from 10% to 15% and a decrease in the density of the project by 30,000 sf. “This project will provide 25 additional affordable housing units, ground floor retail and hotel uses, while re-knitting the three neighborhoods back together,” says Menino.

The 30,000 sf density change will occur on Parcel 17, which fronts on Columbus Avenue, and has been reduced from its original height of 149 feet to 127 feet, a reduction of three stories. The city says this change brings the building in line with neighboring buildings in the Ellis/South End neighborhood. The developers have also agreed to contribute an additional $50,000 for transit improvements.

The Columbus Center project was controversial from the start and underwent more than two years of public meetings and numerous revisions to satisfy environmental activists and local residents who worried that that the height and density of the project would create wind tunnels, traffic jams and shadows, among other issues.

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 now consist of an 11-story building that will have 245,000-sf of space including approximately 200 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.

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