For all the disappointment, angst, and hope wrapped up in the crater where the old Filene’s department store once stood, the former Filene’s site is an imperfect metaphor for Downtown Crossing’s long-running struggles. The Filene’s pit only became the manifestation of neighborhood blight a few years ago. The old Lafayette Place mall, which looms over Washington Street, two blocks down from Filene’s, has been a monument to Downtown Crossing’s failures for decades.
Lafayette Place was supposed to lift up a derelict end of a struggling commercial district. Instead, the redevelopment fell victim to the torpor that has plagued Boston’s downtown since the 1960s. Now, with Lafayette Place’s current corporate occupants preparing to relocate to the booming Seaport district, there’s no stronger barometer for Downtown Crossing’s current renaissance than the latest repositioning project at the snakebitten Lafayette complex.