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2 towers will finish Prudential Center

By Casey Ross
Globe Staff / December 5, 2008
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Boston officials yesterday approved the construction of two more towers at the Prudential Center, despite opposition from lawmakers and neighbors who object to the height of the buildings.

The properties, a 17-story office tower at 888 Boylston St. and the 27-story Exeter Residences, would be the final two buildings at the Prudential site, which was first developed in the mid-1960s. But these two projects, in particular, have drawn sharp criticism, with opponents arguing to the final moments before city approval came yesterday.

"I'm disappointed that the Boston Redevelopment Authority has approved excessively scaled buildings, particularly in light of the overwhelming community opposition," said state Representative Marty Walz, a Back Bay Democrat.

The Prudential Center's owner, Boston Properties, initially received approval for an 11-story building at 888 Boylston, a proposed height that complied with a city-approved master plan for the property. But this year the company sought to increase the height by almost 90 feet, saying it needed at least six more floors to make the project economically viable.

The $192 million project will include 422,000 square feet of offices and retail space on the lower floors. It also calls for upgrades to the Boylston Street plaza, which will be expanded by 1,000 square feet and adorned with new plantings, lighting, and seating. Construction is expected to begin in the spring.

Exeter Residences will contain 188 apartments, including three affordable units in the building and another 49 to be spread among three other residential buildings at the Prudential Center. The $129 million project is being managed by Avalon Bay Communities Inc., which co-owns the development with Boston Properties. The developers earlier this year had reduced the size of that building by three floors. Work on the complex is also scheduled to begin in the spring.

Supporters of the two developments argued that they will fill gaps in the neighborhood's streetscape and create 1,600 construction jobs and 3,000 permanent positions.

"We're in a recession, and we have a developer here who wants to move forward and put my members to work," said Michael Durant, business manager for Iron Workers, Local 7, of South Boston. He said the union has 400 jobless members as a result of the construction slowdown.

Casey Ross can be reached at cross@globe.com.

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