New Owner Means New Hope At Downtown Crossing

By Toni Waterman

Feb. 5, 2012

After years of stalled construction, Menino expects this pit to become a multi-use building in relatively short order. (Toni Waterman/WGBH)

BOSTON — Gone are the bargains, the holiday rush and the wedding dress frenzy — but the former site of the Filene's department store, now a downtown eyesore, has finally turned a major corner. 

For the first time in 3.5 years, there’s good news to report on that ghastly, gaping hole at the heart of Downtown Crossing. The site of the old Filene’s building is under development — again.
"Millennium Partners has agreed to take a controlling stake in the project at One Franklin," Mayor Thomas Menino announced on Feb. 3. "This is the first step towards a new beginning at the historic site."
New York–based Millennium Partners is taking over the long-languishing project. Philip Aarons, a founding partner at Millennium, said the company will pour $500 million into the site, building a towering 600-foot-tall building chock-full of shops, offices and apartments.
"We will really target all of the potential uses that could possibly add 24-hour vitality to the critical corner," he said.
That corner has been sitting vacant ever since the site’s current owner, Vornado Realty Trust, ran into money problems and halted construction. It caused a huge dust-up with Menino. But on Friday, the mayor was confident Millennium would have the project off the ground within a year.
"They’re creative. They get the job done. A lot of developers come and go but Millennium comes into the city and gets the job done," he said,
As for the local shop owners who have seen business drop off the charts since Filene’s closed, they’re thrilled by the news. Russ Centamore, who owns Bromfield Camera, said he doesn’t care what goes there — as long as something does.
"All businesses, whether they’re small or big, we can’t survive on one or two small stores down here," he said. "It’s nice to give out cocoa — everyone loves that — but we really need to get businesses opening."

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