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Despite pandemic, NY developer still plans to build a Downtown Crossing office tower

Construction could start next year at Washington and Bromfield streets

An artist's depiction of the proposed 23-story tower at Washington and Bromfield streets in Downtown Crossing.Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture

In early March, a New York developer said it was planning to build an office tower on a key corner in Downtown Crossing.

A lot has changed since then, particularly the market for office towers in places like Downtown Crossing. But Midwood Investment still wants to build.

Midwood filed detailed plans on Friday for a 23-story tower at Washington and Bromfield streets. Pending the city’s approval, Midwood aims to start construction in early 2022. It’s the latest bid by the New York company to build on the corner, in the heart of the downtown shopping district. And even though office and retail markets have been clobbered by the pandemic, the developer hopes to pull the project off this time.


“The design of this project has carefully considered its prominent location as well as the feedback from previous proposals,” Midwood CEO John Usdan said in a statement. “We are confident that with its high quality design, public improvements along Bromfield and Washington streets, and leadership in sustainability and climate change mitigation, 11-21 Bromfield will contribute positively to the cultural and economic progress of Downtown Boston.”

Proposed is a 325-foot tower, less than half the height of a condo tower pitched for the site in 2015 but scrapped amid neighborhood opposition. This version will mainly be office space, with three floors for retail at street level.

The project ― with no parking and designed for net-zero carbon emissions ― promises to revive an area that has struggled in recent years as retailers have closed but have not been replaced. It would upgrade retail space and widen the sidewalk on Bromfield Street, adding seating and other amenities.

The corner’s challenges have intensified during the pandemic, which has sapped Downtown Crossing of the foot and subway traffic its retailers rely on.

The downtown office market is also suffering. Companies are trying to sublease more than 3 million square feet of office space they’ve decided they no longer need, and several large towers under construction have large blocks of space available.


Midwood had notified the Boston Planning & Development Agency of its plans for 11 Bromfield in early March, days before the city largely shut down to slow the spread of COVID-19. Since then, it’s been working on more-specific plans, but still intends to push forward with developing the site, which it has owned for more than a decade.

Some major downtown landlords are optimistic that once the pandemic passes workers will return to the offices and streets of downtown. This week, the office giant Boston Properties said it’s continuing to talk with large employers about leases, and that long-term it expects most tenants will stick around, even if their employees work from home more often.

"We continue to think that successful companies will primarily conduct their business in-person,” said Owen Thomas, Boston Properties' CEO, in a call with analysts on Wednesday. “The customers that we talk to, the other business leaders that we talk to, I think it’s becoming increasingly clear to them that they’re missing something with everyone working from home.”

Midwood appears to be making the same bet. The BPDA will hold public meetings and neighborhood review in the coming weeks. If that goes well, they’ll start construction “subject to market conditions and availability of financing,” and hope to open the building by 2024.


Tim Logan can be reached at timothy.logan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @bytimlogan.