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Big developer tries some Boston 2024-style astroturfing in bid for latest downtown tower

Boston Magazine reports that Millennium Partners, the company that gave us its eponymous towers on Washington Street, is trying to will into being a grassroots campaign to support its proposed tower on the site of the old Winthrop Square parking garage - replete with buttons and a hashtag.

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It's a flagrant disregard for Bostonians when these developers continue to build their towers yet do so little to alleviate the housing bubble crisis

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It really just shows the dishonesty. They already have the Mayor in their pocket so manipulating the public should be easy right?

Way back before they built Millennium Tower they launched a web site where their name is nowhere to be found, promoting the neighborhood.

Ignoring any issues with homeless, garbage, crime etc. It was and still is all about seeing the neighborhood in a 100% positive light.

Which would be fine if they weren't so shady and dishonest about it.

I think what bugs me the most about people like this is that seem to think they are so much smarter than everyone else and that doesn't seem to change when they get caught repeatedly doing stupid crap like this.

PS. Worst site ever.

http://www.thevoiceofdowntownboston.com/

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"Seeing the neighborhood in a positive light"

Right, as if it wasn't just about trying to make it easier to sell luxury apartments by brushing aside other issues that are worth talking about. The way you describe it, they just want to provide a service and not make money, and some luxury real estate is all an area needs.

Them are the kinds of strategies developers use, even if you want to dismiss them.

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These developers think they can build a tower at Winthrop square, think again .
Boston historical commission or society should stop them from building, The city needs to protect the historical beauty of Boston old, They shouldn't be walling up the city with towers around 1700s historical sites , even though these sites and landmarks are blocks away.
Winthrop Sq is not an area where hipsters hang out, what makes them think by building a luxury apartment building there it will turn out to be just like millennium tower. There is absolutely no retail around Winthrop sq.

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You don't sound sincere, but there's no reason the city shouldn't protect some of its history by insuring that new construction is well suited to the new environment and respects the historic surroundings. There really isn't that much major retail there.

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Your post appears to be sarcasm, but all of the building of luxury condos has not lowered rents except only recently, because they don't cater to the local buyer.

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"The project has drawn criticism for its apparent violation of a state law forbidding new development from casting shadows on the Common and Public Garden for long periods of time."

The reason for "apparent" violation: No shadow or wind studies were included in the proposal. It should be tossed until that is added.

I hate myself for liking the design of that button.

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any tower proposed for this site was going to have this problem. The shadow bank is a well known set of legislation and lots of development hinges on it. Addressing it probably should have been included in the RFP. But the way the city does things is by making exceptions not by flowing rules. If I were another developer who had to shorten his building to avoid the shadow bank I'd be pissed.

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That pin is cringeworthy, and I don't believe Millenium should get a special exemption to the shadow laws for its tower.

But the competing "Keep Our Parks Sunny" pins were produced by the Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay (NABB). They're not a developer or a big company, but they do represent one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the city, and are self-interested in the sense that they likely want to maintain and grow their members' property values. We should be skeptical of these campaigns by developers, but our neighborhood associations aren't always angels either.

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It's possible those buttons were produced by NABB, but probably not in response in any way to this project. NABB rarely steps out of anything happening outside or abutting its boundaries. I have been in meetings where we refused to involve ourselves in issues related to the common for just that reason. There are at least 4 other organizations thst deal with Common issues (which this is).

Those buttons probably were in response to a law designed to protect Copley Square and the Comm Ave mall and other historic parks.

As for concern over property values, I can assure you it's NEVER once come up as an issue in my 20 + year history as a member, officer or director. NABB actually has a LONG history of supporting affordable housing and reasonable development outside the historic district. If you want, I can bore you with many examples. Nobody gets 100%, but the project is usually better in the end.

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Thanks for the informative response! I was going off of the Boston Magazine article, which stated that NABB produced the buttons, but it wasn't clear that those buttons were in direct response to the project.

Sounds like NABB does good work and I hope I didn't come off the wrong way questioning intentions.

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That it's a bunch of rich people sitting around worrying about their pearls and property values.

The reality is a lot more mundane than that- architectural regulations, licensing/building use, parks/playgrounds, DPW stuff, development (mostly traffic, wind, shadows etc. - contrary to popular perception, the city never listens re. height/density anyway), membership, social activities, "green" initiatives, street safety, etc.

Pretty bland stuff - but the nuts and bolts of making life livable in 150 year old homes that need to be relevant and adaptable to things like cars, internet, solar panels etc.

To me the most important stuff is the social activities - best way I know of to get to know my neighbors and make new friends.

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In another popular Boston forum I frequent, there's been a very noticeable change in things that people are saying about Boston development topics, starting maybe a year ago. I can't say whether it's urban planning wonks or developer shills, but there's what seem like talking points that keep coming up, and strong assertions, beyond the usual sophistication and norms of the forum. And it's very developer-friendly.

It's noticeable enough that I keep having the thought that it looks like astroturfing. Though, at some point, especially in forums with young people, astroturfed talking points are transferred to people who think it's smart community's thinking, and become beliefs that are then propagated honestly. Though they might be invalid, and serve really insidious interests.

Regardless of whether it's happening in this particular instance, astroturfing is dangerous. Online astroturfing is just a variation on old ways for big money to buy public sentiment, but it's in some ways worse than, say, controlling a fake newspaper, because citizens' conversations are no longer just among people we know, but include online pseudonymous strangers. Now big money plants shills in our conversations. This seems very bad to me.

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I find astroturfing distateful and unethical too, but I have to wonder why you're being so cagey in your post. What forum? And why are you willing to share your (anonymous) concerns over astroturfing in that unamed forum here, but not there?

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Maybe they're talking about the r/boston subreddit? It's a younger demographic and tends to skew towards the "build, baby, build" solution to the high cost of housing around here.

I'll freely admit that I tend to fall into that category and make posts/comments on Reddit to that effect. Unfortunately, I'm just an "urban planning wonk" rather than someone on some developer's payroll.

Although I have noticed that more developers are hiring PR companies as part of the overall real estate development process. It's not a good trend, since I'm sure that cost just gets passed on to the eventual tenants of those buildings. But it may not be surprising since a lot of our project approval process seems to be about getting the right (or right number of) elected officials and neighbors on board.

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Well, I'm pro-development, I'm not on anyone's payroll, and I've posted to that effect in a wide variety of places. Including here.

The greater Boston area is a desirable place to live. Lack of moderately priced housing squeezes out families, middle and lower income workers, new arrivals, artists & risk-takers. We should build more of it because those people are desirable parts of our community.

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There's no shortage of talent here locally already. This is not a region that needs to significantly change for newcomers to be successful.

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Lol. I would guess it's archboston.org, which is a forum that is popular with local (and, not local) architects, designers, real estate agents, developers, and those who are interested in the urban landscape, both in Boston and beyond.

I've noticed it, too, on that board. It doesn't seem as though people there are interested anymore in having discussions, focusing instead on their own dogma. (Never have I used that word before, btw, so check it.)

I've never met a building I didn't like; I'm pretty pro-development (and, not for personal gain since I haven't made a dime off real estate in a long time ...). A growing city needs more residential and commercial projects.

What I am against are any tax breaks for developers (cc: Liberty Mutual; Columbus Center; JP Morgan; GE;, etc.)

And, mostly against a 700' tower that casts shadows on the Boston Common.

I realize other Bostonians don't hold the Common in such high regard that any changes should be carefully reviewed (see: Mike Ross and his fast-food outlet; the Merry-Go-Round;, etc.) but when it comes to it and the Public Garden, I'm not ready to give anything up without a fight.

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I was trying not to say the name either but.. yeah, ArchBoston is what I was referring too.

And Mine, John's and Anon's feelings are not alone. I've had a few other peoples from there tell me this also...

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I've noticed this a long time on archboston.org forums. Where so many threads have degenerated into a "Why can't we have skyscrapers like New York" whine fest.

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And the truth hurts if you try to explain why (FAA, Logan Airport, Landfill, etc).. they don't wanna hear it. Either be on that board to learn and be objective but don't get on there just to whine.

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I know exactly who this is (the anon) and exactly what board they are talking about. But don't ask me.. I won't share. But I will say, its the same reason why I seldom go to that board also anymore.

But in my take.. that board seems to be taken over by YIMBYs who appear not to be from Boston (or relatively new to Boston), many of the old timers who used to post regularly have stopped doing so because of these 'new people'.

Like anon, I question where these people are coming from and their motive is. And more that I think about it, it does sound more and more like astroturfing.. or as I like to say "propaganda machines' to garner public support in odd ways.

Can't get your head around it.. look at Shirley Leung from the Globe. She's the Queen of Astrotufing. Queen cheerleader for big development. She's a shill for them.. its pretty apparent that she is. Thats what she does.. astrourfing.. writes articles stating the wonderful things about xyz development, even if its bleeding on being a lie. Just to try to garner support for a project. I'm sure we'll see many articles from her surrounding this development in Winthrop Square.

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tWell, said forum (as I believe I know which you speak of) seems to have just devolved into nastiness and adversarial politics (not unlike current national trends I guess) from a pretty neat little community of discussing what is going on in the city and the surrounding neighborhood. Now, I am born and raised in Boston, and still live in the city, and I can get down with some of the height stuff - but I also agree with the concept of the high spine and not plopping 1,000" sky scrappers in the middle of the North End - in fact I think anything that tall anywhere would be rather out of place in our skyline. That all said, and I think you might agree at least at some level - given this project is to replace a condemned parking garage, and being in the heart of downtown, I don't mind height and I do think the city should maximize our return via taxes from it. While I really didn't care much for Millennium's proposal vs some of the others, the city did at least go for the total max revenue option, so I can't fault them there.

The shadow issue honestly to me is just how Boston politics works - its not like anyone didn't know about this (shit it goes back to Menino trying to get a thousand footer over there). It was definitely a 100% lets get this all worked out and then deal with that later - most likely because now the city can go before the legislature and use the millions in tax revenues as the leverage to ram an exception through on the shadow law. Personally, I don't think the shadow impact is really all that terrible from the renders/simulations, but I think we really deserve looking at the shadow law as a whole and not simply doing shitty one-offs to push this through as a special snow flake.

Either way I just want to see things like the Winthrop Square and Harbor garages gone - I would be totally on board with skyscrapers or just simple parks/plazas. Same with Pike air rights projects and even decking over the various on/off ramps on the green way - I would hope something can be done as these projects actually improve the city by getting rid of actual blight. What is annoying are zealots blindly thinking the only way to do any of this is it must be super tall towers and that building those are the only things that matter (vs repairing and reclaiming these public places in any way possible).

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Actually it wouldn't surprise me if Marty didn't know about the shadow law. He seems to have stumbled into this one just like he stumbled into the Olympics and IndyCar - he's easily taken in by certain types of people.

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#leaningtowerofSF

?

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          ( silly clichés )

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There's definitely been a lot of extreme pro development PR spin increasing with a lot of new developments with organizing on other forums as people here mentioned.

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