BCDC Voices Grave Concerns Over One Mystic

Members of the Boston Civic Design Commission (BCDC) expressed numerous concerns about the design, height and connectivity of the proposed One Mystic residential tower during a review meeting on Tuesday night.

The BCDC is an appointed group of architects that work in tandem with the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) to review design elements and other pieces of proposed projects under BPDA review.

Virtually every member of the BCDC said they had concerns about the project design, with the top concern being the height of the 29-story tower on the edge of Sullivan Square. Other concerns were fundamental, such as having an open concept in an area where most thought people would want a protected environment.

The BCDC decided to send the matter to Committee for further discussion, but suggested the developers go back to the BPDA to make major changes to the design as proposed.

“You talk about Affordable Housing and Workforce Housing, so where are the places for the kids to play?” said Member Andrea Leers, noting that she thought the design should include closed off courtyards and not the open Paseo. “I urge you to think about this as a living place and an example of how all the other industrial properties can also develop.”

I encourage you to step back and think again about not having it be so much a gateway as it is a place to live,” continued Leers. “It will be a gateway if it achieves that quality of life…I encourage you to go back to the BPDA and look at some major alternatives and we’ll see it again in Committee.”

Said member William Rawls, “Having tall towers indiscriminately placed over the landscape is a pretty scary thing. I hope you have time to review it with the BPDA and everyone else.”

At the outset, Member Mimi Love expressed several concerns about the height – noting that it was a huge massing.

“I’m just troubled by the height,” she said.

“I’m having a hard time understanding the thinking behind the massing, but the height of the proposal is one that’s troubling to me,” she said.

Member Linda Eastley said she was also concerned about the height, but also expressed concerns about the centerpiece Paseo – a ground level open space that bisects the tower and would offer activation and programming.

“My worry is that between now and when the area catches up with you that Paseo will be empty and won’t be used because it doesn’t connect to anything,” she said. “That’s my first concern and I’m sure you too are concerned about that as an early adopter to this area…It feels like we have a lot of building program here. It does feel extremely tall to me.”

Most all of the members said they understood it was a very difficult site, and the project is a pioneer in an area that hasn’t seen such development in generations – if ever. They also expressed an understanding of the busy-ness of the area – including the transportation hubs like the Bus Barn, Sullivan Square T Station, I-93 and Assembly Row. However, members said they felt with that in mind, the building was a great design for some other site – somewhere downtown in an area with established high-rises.

The BCDC did vote unanimous to send One Mystic to Committee, but encouraged them to make major design changes with the BPDA before engaging in that process.

The comment period for One Mystic is to close on June 11.

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