May 09, 2001

The Boston Globe

By Marcella Bombardieri

Boston (May 09, 2001) -- In what the city called the largest private gift ever made to the Boston Common, developers of a new, $500 million luxury complex of hotel rooms, condominiums, and retail space downtown announced yesterday that they will donate $1 million to renovate the Common.

Millennium Partners, which will open The Ritz-Carlton Hotel & Towers, Boston Common, this summer, said it will also provide $50,000 each year for 20 years to maintain the renovations.

Work will include the construction of an irrigation system for the grass, the repair of damaged walkways, and the addition of historic signs, historically accurate wrought iron fencing along Tremont Street, and fresh plantings.

The developers also said they plan to install acorn-shaped lights on cast-iron poles, and spruce up the Oliver Wendell Holmes Mall, Railroad Mall, and Lafayette Mall.

"We're here because we want to be good neighbors," said Philip Aarons, a cofounder of New York-based Millennium Partners, at a ceremony on the Common. "We want to be sensitive to the people around us as well as the natural beauty that surrounds us."

Millennium dedicated its donation to Genie Beal, Stella Trafford, and Henry Lee, all longtime members of the Friends of the Public Garden, Boston Common and Commonwealth Common.

The $1 million project, to be completed by the end of the summer, is a fitting follow-up to an $8 million public investment in restoring the Public Garden, said Mayor Thomas M. Menino.

Several speakers at the ceremony alluded to a deal between Millennium Partners and St. Francis House, a homeless shelter surrounded by the development on three sides, which the Globe reported on Monday.

Before the Globe's report, neither Millennium nor St. Francis would speak about the $895,000 deal, which included $140,000 from Millennium to build an indoor waiting area for homeless patrons. Yesterday, St. Francis House Director Ira Greiff said the waiting area, to be known as "the Atrium," will be dedicated in June.

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