The Boston Redevelopment Authority board lent unanimous approval to the Copley Place expansion project on Thursday despite protests from neighbors who called the development “immoral and illegal.”
The $500 million expansion includes 70,000 square feet of new retail space, restaurant space and a public atrium. A 47-story residential tower containing 318 units will rise above the existing commercial building, becoming the tallest residential building in Boston at 625 feet.
“The new project will build on the strengths of the existing Copley Place complex…and infuse an already successful retail destination with an inspired and dynamic mixed-use development,” the BRA wrote in a press release.
The project is expected to create 1,700 construction jobs and 270 permanent jobs once completed. It will also generate approximately $7.2 million in annual property tax revenue.
Construction is slated to begin in the fall of 2012 and last three years, the BRA announced.
Opponents of the project gathered at City Hall on Thursday to “occupy” the Mayor’s office and BRA meeting. In a press release announcing their plans, opponents said the project would benefit “the 1%” and not the average Boston resident.
“People in this neighborhood have worked for housing not just for poor people, not just for rich people, but housing for everyone,” the release stated. “Simon Properties intends to build…[an] elite residential tower with an enclosed ‘wintergarden’ that replaces and encroaches upon the expanse of public open space now at the corner of Dartmouth and Stuart Streets.”
Of the 318 residences on-site, 10 will be affordable. The developer has agreed to construct 38 additional affordable residences in the South End and Back Bay.
In an open letter to Mayor Menino, Governor Deval Patrick and the BRA, South End activist Mel King said approving the project was akin to allowing segregated housing to be built on public land.
“I have spent a large part of my life dealing with segregation,” he wrote. “What is the most egregious and one of the most serious aspects of this proposal, is how many people turn a blind eye to the kind of impact that projects based on segregation like this will have on individuals.”