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Nordstrom eyes old Filene’s site on Boylston Street

Retailer said to be in talks for old Basement site

Filene's Basement used to occupy the building on the corner of Boylston Street and Berkeley Street in Boston.

Globe File/2011

Filene's Basement used to occupy the building on the corner of Boylston Street and Berkeley Street in Boston.

Luxury retailer Nordstrom Inc. is looking to open its first store in Boston with its discount brand, Nordstrom Rack, at the former Filene’s Basement site on Boylston Street, according to people briefed on the deal.

The Seattle-based chain is negotiating to take over the entire two-story, 38,425-square-foot space at the ­Newbry building in the Back Bay, ­according to the people who asked not to be named because the deal is not yet complete. Nordstrom Rack features merchandise from Nordstrom stores and Nordstrom.com at 50 to 60 percent off original prices, along with items that are purchased specifically for the discount chain.

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The luxury merchant, which is aiming for a spring 2013 opening, has long eyed the Boston market and made inroads in the suburbs in recent years. Nordstrom currently runs full-price department stores in Braintree, Natick, Burlington, and Peabody, and operates Nordstrom Rack shops in Danvers, Framingham, and Burlington.

“Nordstrom Rack will make its home in a premiere shopping destination, and I look forward to doing some shopping there,” said Mayor Thomas M. Menino, a former Filene’s Basement devotee.

Filene’s Basement, the historic Boston company that claimed to have invented the bargain, vacated the Boylston Street store at the end of last year after the troubled retailer filed for bankruptcy protection and liquidated the entire chain.

Kendall Ault, a Nordstrom spokeswoman, said the merchant did not have a specific site to announce, but added: “We continue to look at Rack store opportunities in Boston so we can better serve our customers.”

Luring Nordstrom to the Back Bay would be a coup for the city and for the Newbry building, which last year lost two major tenants, Filene’s Basement and Borders bookstore, according to retail analysts.

Joanne Rathe/Globe staff

Nordstrom has a Rack location in Framingham (above) as well as in Danvers and Burlington.

“Nordstrom Rack is a tremendous retail concept. They have a straight line into Nordstrom to pick up all of the end-of-season and branded excess inventory, and they offer a steady stream of tremendous value,” said Madison Riley, a retail analyst with Kurt Salmon in Boston. “A lot of what you see in the outlet world is brands being produced specifically for the outlets. But Nordstrom Rack is real value.”

The Newbry occupies nearly a full block bounded by Berkeley, Boylston, Clarendon, and Newbury streets, and the property served for much of its history as the headquarters for the New England Mutual Life Insurance Co.

The Borders space is being divided into three sections to make room for high-profile tenants, including the city’s first Pret a Manger cafe, an Athleta shop run by Gap Inc., and an expanded H&M store.

Jenn Abelson can be reached at abelson@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @jennabelson.
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