Just as we are asking this question here in Allston about Harvard's proposed 100-something foot tall Science Complex, residents of Chinatown are asking the same question about a residential tower proposed in their neighborhood. This story in today's Globe - Question of scale: Is tower too tall for Chinatown? - The Boston Globe - describes the supporters and opponents of a 340 foot tall residential tower proposed for the edge of Chinatown. Mayor Menino is one person who opposes the proposed height - "The design is not in keeping with the neighborhood," said Menino. "I told them it was way too high."
We can't really make an "apples-to-apples" comparison between what might be too tall for Chinatown and too tall in Allston. There are already several buildings in and near Chinatown that are 300+ feet tall. The nearby Hopedale Street neighborhood is comprised of homes probably no more than 30 feet tall. Along Western Ave, there is nothing close to 100 feet tall except for Harvard's One Western Ave, and the tower of that building is set back a significant distance from the Western Ave sidewalk.
This graphic is incredibly helpful in understanding the height of the proposed project and the exisitng buildings in the Chinatown neighborhood. Will we ever get comparable information from Harvard or the BRA about the Science Complex? The BRA's Scoping Determination (4MB file with public comment & 0.2MB file without comments) required a lot of important urban design information about the Science Complex and its surrounding context, but so far we haven't seen any information like this from Harvard. We can hope that the Draft Project Impact Report from Harvard (expected by the end of May) makes this clear for those of us who can't easily understand the visual impact of the proposed buildings.