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).