What Will Be Downtown Crossing's Next Big Project?
Millennium Partners is raking in a handsome return on the $1.5B it invested in the Downtown Crossing neighborhood. In the past 18 months, the developer has sold $1B of condos with at least $650M in sales coming just from its 442-unit Millennium Tower, says partner Richard Baumert (pictured in the Millennium Tower sales center). Back in ’01, Millennium followed a familiar strategy. When you find a good location—like the West Side of Manhattan near Lincoln Center—stick with it. The developer is vying for its fourth project near Downtown Crossing: the much anticipated tower at Winthrop Square, which may be Boston’s tallest new high rise: at least 700 feet.
15 years ago, when Millennium Partners completed the mixed-use condo project anchored by the Ritz-Carlton Hotel on Avery Street, it was hard to imagine how radically the Downtown Crossing neighborhood would change. It was “rough,” recalls Richard. But his company invested $600M in the Ritz project because it had faith that the traditional heart of downtown Boston could be revived. The recent openings of Roche Bros supermarket, Paul’s French bakery and restaurants like Serafina’s underscore that the old downtown is back.
Since 2001, Millennium has built the Ritz-Carlton complex, the $175M Millennium Place (completed late ‘13) with 256 condominiums and ground-floor retail that includes restaurants like LX Legal Crossing, and next year it wraps up the $685M, 442-unit Millennium Tower complex, which includes Primark’s first US store, 135k SF of offices and 220k SF of retail, most already leased. Pictured: Millennium Place on the left and the Ritz complex, the structure with the circular component.
Richard offered up more perks of Downtown Crossing: Every major T line feeds into the area; the neighborhood is adjacent to the Financial District, still Boston’s largest office submarket; once the preserve of financial and law firms, tech companies have been flooding in and last year, signing 28% of the new leases; just one block away is the Boston Common—open green space to relax or catch a seasonal event; and a few blocks south is the harbor, being reborn as the Seaport District with its own crop of new offices, housing, retail and restaurants moving in.
In the fall, the first new downtown hotel since the recession is slated to open: Oxford Capital’s $60M redevelopment of the old office building at 59 Temple Place into the 240-key boutique Godfrey Hotel. In 2011, Oxford CEO John Rutledge paid $23M for the office relic because he too believed in the revival of Downtown Crossing.
Other important neighbors are educational institutions like Suffolk University and Emerson College. Two weeks ago, Emerson won city approval to move ahead on its $100M, 276k SF plan to renovate and expand the nearby Little Building at 80 Boylston St to house 1,050 students, 300 more than have been living there. The project includes replacement and restoration of the historic façade.
Historic restorations are often challenging. Millennium Tower is a two-building complex that includes the 1912 Filene’s department store—the only downtown building designed by Daniel Burnham. The new design for the complex by Handel Architects exposes the former Filene’s north wall, always hidden in the past. The concept for filling in that façade (above) is a mix of modern design that refers to the structure’s history without mimicking it. The new glass wall detailed with mullions echos the vertical expression of the picture windows covering the historic main façade on Washington Street.