Boston’s Old South Church asks tower developer for $19 million for casting shade

Request highlights ongoing conflict between developers and residents over right to sunshine.

October 26, 2017 |

Boston’s Old South Church is the latest aggrieved party in a simmering battle for sunshine amid a downtown building boom.

The 142-year-old church is two blocks away from a planned tower at Back Bay Station, a subway and commuter rail stop. Representatives for the church are concerned that shadows from the planned 365-foot tall structure would cause moisture damage to masonry and darken stained-glass windows.

Old South Church has asked the developer for $19 million in mitigation funds, with $4 million going toward repairs to the church. The remaining $15 million would go to a citywide fund for affordable home-ownership programs.

Boston Properties, the developer, says the fee is exorbitant, and that impact studies don’t support the church’s fears, though a preservation architect quoted by the Boston Globe says the concerns are warranted. The company plans $72 million in upgrades to the train station and surrounding area as part of a $1 billion project consisting of three office and apartment towers and a garage over the Massachusetts Turnpike.

The Boston Planning & Development Agency hasn’t made a decision on the church’s request, and has delayed a vote on the project while church officials and the developer continue discussions. In a related matter, the state passed a law earlier this year that allows more shade from buildings on Boston Common, a move that would allow construction of a proposed 700-foot tall tower above an old parking garage.

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