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Developer hopes to re-start construction of Winthrop Square tower in mid-September

The BPDA today approved a request from Millennium Partners to chop off part of its now stalled Winthrop Square two-tower complex and to change all of the planned condo units to apartments - a move the company says will let it get loans and resume construction on the currently stopped project, rather than just letting it sit idle for years at a time, like the once festering Filene's Hole that the company famously took over from another developer and got built.

Joseph Larkin, a Millennium Partners principal, told the BPDA board he's hopeful that with the change, the company can finish up financing agreements within two months and so get workers back onto what is now a shuttered construction site in mid-September and complete the new apartments, office space and a public "great hall" by the end of 2022.

Larkin blamed Covid-19: Once that fully hit, banks refused to loan money for luxury condo development - but said they were still willing to take a chance on luxury apartments - he told the board.

"The building is intended to remain as an iconic piece of architecture as was approved in the past," Kathy McNeil, another Millennium Partners principal, said.

Larkin said that even with a reduction of 381 condos to 327 apartments, the company remains committed to paying the city the total $151 million it promised when it bought the decaying old Winthrop Square garage. It's already paid the city $102 million of that, he said.

However, the switch from condos to apartments could jeopardize a large affordable-housing complex in Chinatown the company was planning with non-profit groups, another developer and Tufts University there.

The switch means the company will now only have about $22 million to put towards the so-called Parcel 12 project which would include one building with up to 170 affordable apartments and a hotel, rather than the $48 million it had originally promised through proceeds from the sale of condos. Larkin said Millennium Partners remains committed to the project - which helped the BPDA agree to let it forgo affordable units in Winthrop Square - and that if the Boston economy takes off again, the company would convert the apartments to condos and add back the remaining $26 million.

Before letting the board vote, the BPDA hired Ernst and Young to look over the project's books to determine if Covid-19 really had cut off the project at the knees; a BPDA planner told the board that the accounting firm concluded that was, in fact, what happened, that lenders simply don't want to touch condos during the pandemic.

BPDA Board Member Michael Monahan expressed sympathy for Millennium Partners' position. "They're victims [of the pandemic], too." he said.

Board member Ted Landsmark predicted that the board would be seeing similar project-change requests from other developers in coming months.

Larkin and McNeil said the reduction in the number of units - and in some cases, their sizes - alone means a savings of about $100 million in the project's cost, which they said banks were also looking at.

Latest renderings of the complex (3.7M PDF).

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Comments

I worry about the future occupancy stability and capacity of office buildings in Boston, both commercial AND residential tenants . Any UHubbers out there who are directors / officers of these entities registered with Sec. of State or Delaware or New York who can put mind at ease? What is the future?

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Voting closed 18

“ Larkin said Millennium Partners remains committed to the project - which helped the BPDA agree to let it forgo affordable units in Winthrop Square - ... ”

Committed? Then they need to put their money where their mouth is and either NOT cut by 50% the promised affordable housing in Chinatown or they need to include the affordable units in the Winthrop Square building.

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And if they renege on their promise to put the future permanent Chinatown library on the first floor of the affordable development, Mayor Walsh or the BPDA need to hold Millennium Partners accountable (unless they're willing to cough up the money directly from city coffers).

The community has been left without one for more than half a century.

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Voting closed 21

I really hate to keep seeing condo projects converted to rental apartments. Condos are much more likely to attract people who want to put down roots rather than those who are only planning to stay for a few years, which is better for the stability of the neighborhood. They also allow people to build equity rather than throwing their money away to a landlord.

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On Federal Street. BAHAHAHA.

They would have been purchased by wealth individuals who don’t plan on making them their primary residence.

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There are luxury condos with no one in them because they were bought as investments or by rich people who are only in town occasionally.

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Voting closed 16

There are ways around that without saying "don't build condos" though.

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Voting closed 4