Developer Proposes Reducing Winthrop Center’s Residential Component

As construction continues on what will be the fourth tallest building in the city and the tallest structure in Downtown Crossing, the developer of the $1.35 billion, mixed-use Winthrop Center in the Financial District is seeking to reduce the skyscraper’s proposed residential component in response to current economic uncertainty.

Millennium Partners Boston filed a notice of project change with the city’s Boston Planning and Development Agency on June 10 requesting the elimination of the residential component in the east tower, which was approved by the city last year. This reduction in residential space would decrease its residential gross-square footage from approximately 662,825 to around 572,283. The number of residential units would also be reduced from 387, as was previously approved, to approximately 321 as a result of this change. In total, the project would be decreased from 1,545,021 to 1,447,000 gross square feet.

The building’s height of 691 feet will remain the same, as would proposed parking provisions, office and retail space and the Great Hall/Connector, which will provide 2,400 square feet of public meeting space.

“In response to changing market conditions due to the global impact of COVID-19, Millennium Partners Boston is reducing the scale of the residential portion of the project by 14 percent while keeping its signature height intact and maintaining the building’s integration of core design principles developed in conjunction with MIT professors,” a press release from the developer reads in part. “The COVID-19 pandemic has had a wide-reaching effect, from impacting the construction process to infiltrating the banking environment. Adjusting the building in response to new economic constraints, Millennium Partners Boston’s priority is to move the building into the next phase of construction and ensure no compromise is made in the quality, safety, comfort, and well-being that Winthrop Center will deliver to occupants as Boston emerges from COVID-19.”

Winthrop Center is being built on the site of a former city-owned garage in Winthrop Square, which Millennium Partners purchased from the city up front nearly two years ago for $102 million. The developer still owes the city more than $50 million from the transaction, however.

BPDA Director Brian Golden said in a statement: “The sale of the Winthrop Square garage was, and still remains, the most lucrative sale of City-owned property in the City’s history for City of Boston residents. By selling a dilapidated, vacant garage in downtown Boston that was generating no revenue, the City of Boston will be able to make unprecedented investments in public housing and open space. The project will transform the garage into a unique, mixed-use tower that will bring public realm improvements to the surrounding neighborhood and more affordable housing to downtown.  The BPDA is reviewing the Notice of Project Change filed and commissioning a third party independent evaluation of the current market for high-rise condominium financing and their request to modify the approved project due to financing challenges during the ongoing global pandemic. The approval of Millennium’s proposed changes will not go forward until that review and a public process alongside the community is complete.”     

Millennium Partners has also requested that the BPDA allow changes to the developer’s affordable housing agreement with the city because the residential units would initially be positioned as rentals.

State Rep. Jay Livingstone said he is eager to find out what the proposed project change would ultimately mean regarding the developer’s affordable housing obligation.

“I have been assured by the BPDA that it will not change the mitigation due to the Friends of the Public Garden and the Boston Common,” Rep Livingstone added.

Liz Vizza, executive director of the Friends of the Public Garden, a nonprofit that along with the Boston Parks Department maintains the Public Garden, the Common and the Commonwealth Avenue Mall, said, “We are pleased to see that Millennium’s changes to their Winthrop Square project will not result in further shadow impacts to the parks, and that they will continue to honor their commitments, including $28 million for Boston Common and funding through the Fund for Historic Parks at The Boston Foundation to benefit the care of all three parks.”

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