We, along with you and the rest of the sentient Hub dwellers, have been agog-in' the last several months over what will become Boston's tallest residential building, the Millennium Tower in Downtown Crossing. Invariably, the 625-foot building is described as "filling the old Filene's site" or "on the old Filene's site." But what about that old Filene's? What's going to become of the skeleton of that? According to Casey Ross in The Globe, it's getting a second act. The developer and the architect behind Millennium Tower plan to incorporate the so-called Burnham Building into the overall project by deliberately having it be a throwback, while its high-rising neighbor will be a shiny paean to modernity:
The revised building will have retail space in its basement and on the first few floors, with several levels of offices above. On the lower floors, it will be connected to stores at the base of the adjacent residential tower, which will have up to 600 units. The project replaces a prior version that called for construction of a 39-story tower that would have risen over the Filene's store—instead of setting it off as a distinct structure. The idea is to not only pay architectural homage to a Filene's that once anchored Boston's shopping district—as many as 235,000 people passed through the building's doors when it opened in September 1913, about one-third of Boston's population (then and now)—but also to its architect, Daniel Burnham. Burnham's greatest hits were the Flatiron Building in Manhattan and the glorious Union Station in D.C. But the store in Downtown Crossing had flourishes that a century ago were quite advanced, including lots of exterior glass and steel frames instead of massive bearing walls—in other words, the sorts of innovations that allow us to build tall and shiny today.