This fall, Downtown Crossing continues its transformation from mostly seedy retail mecca to upscale neighborhood with two mixed-use projects on Washington Street — one completed and one just begun — that bring a dramatic change to the area along the lines of when the city-sanctioned red light district known as the Combat Zone took over in the early 1960s.
Those projects — Millennium Place, which welcomes its first residents in early October, and the nearby Millennium Tower-Burnham Building, which started preliminary work this spring — will add new retail and office space and also bring over 700 homes to the area. The homes start at $750,000 for almost 800 square feet and will sell for as high as multiple millions.
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“There’s no question about it, it’s a huge change,” says Richard G. Baumert, partner at Millennium Partners, which also developed the nearby Ritz-Carlton Hotel and Towers and the Sports Club/LA on adjacent Avery Street. “It’s very similar to when we did the Ritz project in 2001, how that initiated a huge change in what was a rundown, forgotten area.”
To some, this furthers Downtown Crossing’s gentrification into a “one percenter” playground. However, the beautiful historic buildings like the Opera House and the Paramount Theater recall a time when ladies visiting Downtown Crossing shopped for corsets —not danced on stage in them. Perhaps, then, the area is also reclaiming some of its original charm.
Clearly, the marketplace is strong: the 15-story, 256-unit Millennium Place sold in less than a year. But when Millennium Tower is finished, by 2016, the 625-foot tall building will change both the neighborhood’s and Boston’s vistas.
“The major difference between Millennium Place and the Tower will be the views,” says Baumert. “You can’t find views like the Tower’s upper floors anywhere in Boston. The only view that would compare would be from a helicopter.”