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Beyond The Big Dig
About this project

What happens to the ribbon of land being created by the depression of the Central Artery may be the most important development decision to face Boston in a generation.


Price is right on Greenway tax

By Maryann Gilligan Suydam, 7/22/2002

Last week, Acting Governor Jane Swift, Mayor Thomas Menino, House Speaker Thomas Finneran, and Senate President Thomas Birmingham introduced legislation to create the Millennium Greenway Trust, a public entity that would own the Central Artery corridor, to be known as the Rose Kennedy Greenway.

This legislation creates an Artery Betterment District, in which property owners will be assessed an additional real estate tax to pay for the cost of the greenway's maintenance and management. On behalf of Equity Office Properties Trust, Boston's largest commercial property owner and the taxpayer who would be responsible for the largest payment to the Trust, I am writing to express our support for this approach to funding the greenway, with the addition of appropriate measures to balance the proposed public-private partnership in a manner that will assure its long-term success.

The importance of making the Rose Kennedy Greenway successful public open space when the Artery is demolished in 2005 cannot be underestimated. Great places have memorable public spaces which reinforce the reputation of a livable city. In the 1970s Boston unveiled Quincy Market. This is our generation's opportunity to create the next public destination for the residents and tourists of the future.

Boston's "Big Dig" is being watched by observers from all over the world. And, of course, federal funding has made all Americans stakeholders in the project. The Rose Kennedy Greenway will define our city for years to come, as Central Park defines New York, or the Ramblas defines Barcelona. We have our own standard of excellence in public open space in Boston's Emerald Necklace. The Rose Kennedy Greenway should measure up to this standard.

As a commercial property owner, the advantages to be derived from a successful Rose Kennedy Greenway are clear: a more attractive business environment, more accessible public activities for our customers and their employees, increased public foot traffic, a more "walkable" city, cultural enrichments; and so many others. Our company, our customers, and our neighboring property owners are among those who stand to gain the most from this new reality. These benefits outweigh the cost of a new tax.

We are closer to striking the right balance between state and city authorities, as well as between public and private interests, to properly guide the creation of a successful Greenway. The impact of the new tax on commercial property owners must be a central part of the public dialogue as the legislation is under consideration.

First, there must be meaningful representation of the business community on the Trust, and the other advisory boards which will carry out its mission.

Second, there must be some level of cost-sharing for the expenses of the Trust between the private and public sectors, in the interests of financial discipline and fairness.

Third, as the mechanism of improvement districts is considered by the city for other purposes, there should be a commitment to refrain from creating any other additional burdens upon property owners in the Artery Betterment District. This is particularly important as the effect of the additional tax is to reduce the competitiveness of Boston's Downtown Financial District with other areas of the city.

The confident participation of the commercial real estate community in the funding of the Millennium Greenway Trust will protect the investments we all have made in doing business in Boston. Let us work together to ensure the creation and maintenance of world-class public open space for generations to come. We want to participate in making this dream a reality for Boston.

Maryann Gilligan Suydam is regional senior vice president of the Boston Region of Equity Office Properties Trust, which owns and manages properties which ring the Rose Kennedy Greenway, including Rowes Wharf, 100 Summer St., Russia Wharf, and South Station.

Copyright 2002 The New York Times Company
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