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Developer pitches new design for Filene’s site

Plan is for 606-foot glass tower with a mix of retail and residences to fill former Filene’s site

The empty Filene’s site (left) and a rendering of the proposed tower (right).Pat Greenhouse/Globe File (left); Handel Architects

Aglass skyscraper at the former Filene’s department store site in Boston would rise to 606 feet under a plan released Monday that calls for a dramatic new peak on the city’s downtown skyline.

The new design by Millennium Partners of New York calls for a taller and more slender building than one proposed by the site’s previous developers, Vornado Realty Trust and Boston developer John B. Hynes III. That building failed to move forward due to financial problems, leading Millennium to buy into the project earlier this year and revise its design.

The new plan proposes a dramatic increase in the number of residences, to 500 from a prior plan for 163 units. The design by Handel Architects will renovate the property’s original 1912 building — conceived by noted architect Daniel Burnham — and set it against a striking glass tower that will cost $615 million.


“The project intends to present the simultaneous and harmonious pairing of new and old, and will consist of uses that will ensure a vital 24/7 city sector,” Millennium Partners said in a statement.

The design comports with a rough outline the firm gave when it purchased the building last winter. On Monday, it unveiled an image of the tower for the first time and provided more detail on its mix of components.

The building, about 55 stories, would become a new center of gravity in the city’s downtown, where few new skyscrapers have been built in recent decades. In addition to its residences, which will be a combination of apartments and condominiums, the complex will include 230,000 square feet of retail stores — enough to fill two Home Depots — and 200,000 square feet of offices and 525 underground parking spaces.

In a statement Monday, Mayor Thomas M. Menino of Boston offered support for the new design. “Millennium Partners has always been a real partner of the City of Boston,” he said. “They continue to do excellent work leading the way in the building of an exciting new day for the area of Downtown Crossing.”


The shopping district, once a proud heart of commerce, has become an afterthought due to the loss of marquee retailers that used to lure huge daily crowds. Although several new businesses have opened in recent years, the area has struggled to regain momentum since the original Filene’s project stalled in 2008, leaving a massive construction crater at its most prominent corner.

Millennium is pushing to start construction by the end of the year, but still must secure approvals from the Boston Redevelopment Authority. The firm said Monday it will submit final environmental documents for public review within 60 days.

Millennium is teaming up to redevelop the property with its existing owner, Vornado Realty Trust, which will be a passive investor. The company is also building another large residential complex in the district called Millennium Place, which will bring 256 residences to the corner of Washington and Avery streets. That building is scheduled to be completed in the fall of 2013.

Millennium has built large projects in major cities across the country, including the four-building Lincoln Square complex in New York, the Millennium Tower in San Francisco, and the Ritz-Carlton Hotel & Towers down the street from the Filene’s site in Boston.

Anthony Pangaro, who leads the firm’s Boston operations, has deep roots in the city and previously worked for the state’s transportation department, where he helped to build the Orange Line through Roxbury, Jamaica Plain, and the South End.


Casey Ross can be reached at