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What the Filene's Site Development Means for Boston

Last week's thunderclap of news about the coming mother of all recent Boston towers at the old Filene's site in Downtown Crossing had heads shaking and tongues wagging. It was big. It meant more apartments in a city that needs them. It meant more retail in a prime shopping area that's been growing around the long-dormant site. It meant construction jobs. It meant a win for Mayor Menino and a score for local developer Millennium Partners. What did it mean existentially, though? How will the urban archivists and historians put this one in context? Globe columnist Adrian Walker takes a stab:

The void at the corner of Washington and Franklin streets has been bad for Boston, and not just because the hole itself is so ugly. It underscores the problems of an area that should be far more dynamic than it has ever managed to become. The area never collapsed, but it has never really taken off, either. Successful new nightspots and restaurants are part of its changing landscape. But so are the empty storefronts that used to be home to Barnes and Noble and Borders.

The new tower may be the final change agent, the tipping point, if you will, in Boston's grand development scheme, the event everyone can point to as catalyst for every big project that came afterward that didn't seem possible. Like the mega-upgrade in the 1970s of Faneuil Hall by Kevin White and that Boston.

As Walker notes, the project is but in the planning stages. The trumpets will cease and the applause will still, and the hard work will still need to be done:

Of course, one press conference does not mean much; it will be months before Millennium’s plans are unveiled, and years before a skyscraper is completed. But Millennium’s track record in Boston, where it is also building the Hayward Place development near Chinatown, is reason for optimism. If nothing else, Millennium has a record of working successfully with Menino. For better or worse, that matters. For now, though, take solace. The announcement is at least one victory over this last weekend: "Sure, it is just the abandoned home of a couple of famous department stores. But it is also the center of town, and it is high time Boston got it back."

· Is Downtown Crossing on the Verge of Bouncing Back? [Globe]
· Filene's Site to Be Filled! Ritz Developer Behind New Tower [Curbed Boston
· Kevin White: His Greatest Real Estate Hits (and One Miss) [Curbed Boston]

Old Filene's Site

426 Washington Street, Boston, MA