The week in business

Globe Staff


Winthrop Center project downsized as pandemic impacts financing

One of the biggest development projects in downtown Boston is facing a financing crunch. Nearly two years after breaking ground on Winthrop Center, the building’s developers say it needs to be downsized if it’s going to be finished. Millennium Partners on Wednesday asked the Boston Planning & Development Agency for permission to shrink its tower — which would be the tallest building in the Financial District — by nearly 100,000 square feet, and to swap planned condominiums on its upper floors for apartments. The changes, which will need BPDA approval, were triggered by a financing plan that fell apart amid the coronavirus pandemic that began in March. Since starting work at the site in late 2018, Millennium has spent more than $325 million — mostly its own money — on the 690-foot-tall tower, said Joe Larkin, who heads the firm’s Boston office. It was in the process of raising about $800 million in loans to pay for the rest when the economy cratered, and lenders backed away. The revised plan shows a building that is a bit smaller — a 1.45 million square feet of space instead of 1.55 million — the result of a secondary tower being cut from the back of the building. It would have 321 residential units, instead of 387, and those would likely be apartments, not condos. Plans for roughly 800,000 square feet of office space on the building’s lower floors, and a public “Great Hall” connecting Devonshire and Federal streets, remain the same. — TIM LOGAN


Mass. residents struggle to make rent, mortgage payments

Nearly one-third of Massachusetts residents have missed a rent or mortgage payment since the coronavirus crisis began, with younger and nonwhite renters most likely to have fallen behind. That’s according to a survey of 1,500 people being released Wednesday by MassINC Polling Group, which found that 29 percent of renters missed all or part of a housing payment in April, May, or June. If the economic crisis sparked by the outbreak drags on another six months, the report says, only 40 percent of people expect to be able to keep up with their housing payments. The survey, conducted late last month as June rent was coming due, is one of the clearest pictures yet of the severe economic impact the pandemic is having on the housing market in Massachusetts, particularly on renters and lower-wage workers, who were already struggling with some of the highest housing costs in the nation. Indeed, the survey revealed sharp splits between the ability of homeowners and renters, and older and younger residents, to keep up with housing payments these last few months. While 29 percent of renters have been tardy on at least some portion of a monthly payment, only 13 percent of homeowners have been. Also, people 18 to 29 were more than four times as likely to have missed a payment as those ages 45 to 59. — TIM LOGAN



Newton company raises nearly $44 million to develop new shunt

A Newton medical device startup said Tuesday that it has raised $43.9 million in venture capital to advance its lead product, a minimally invasive shunt to relieve fluid that can build up in the brain as the result of a neurological condition. CereVasc raised the money to fund a clinical trial of its experimental device, the eShunt System. The firm, which was founded in 2014 and has seven employees, plans to begin enrolling volunteers for the trial in the second half of the year. The company developed the device to treat hydrocephalus, a buildup of fluid in the cavities deep within the brain that can occur in children and adults. Hydrocephalus is caused by an imbalance between how much cerebrospinal fluid is produced and how much is absorbed into the bloodstream. Under the current treatment, doctors implant a shunt in an operation performed under general anesthesia, the company said. Patients are typically hospitalized for two to four days. The eShunt can be installed in a minimally invasive procedure that relies on local anesthesia, the company said. Patients might be able to have the procedure and go home the same day. — JONATHAN SALTZMAN



Harvard keeps janitors and security guards on the payroll for now

Hours before a union was set to hold a demonstration protesting what it described as the planned layoff of more than half of the approximately 1,000 janitors and security guards at Harvard University, Harvard announced that none of the workers would lose their jobs and that the June 28 deadline protecting their pay and benefits would be extended. The university did not provide a new date. On Monday, Service Employees International Union 32BJ said the university had informed the union it was sending layoff notices to more than half of the 380 janitors employed directly by the school, and about half of the 300 contracted cleaners. Up to 20 percent of the 280 union security officers who work at Harvard were also set to be laid off, the union said. Demonstrations had been planned for Tuesday afternoon at Harvard’s Science Center Plaza. But on Tuesday morning, the university said it was extending the pay and benefits guarantee for all employees and contractors, including custodial, security, and dining hall workers. The school said it had considered furloughs or layoffs, but decided against them. Harvard, which is projecting a $750 million shortfall for fiscal year 2021, has put a number of cost-saving measures in place, including pay cuts for university leadership, but said no workers have been let go. On Tuesday, the university announced several new voluntary measures, including an early-retirement incentive, a vacation balance reduction, and reduced work hours. — KATIE JOHNSTON



City of Boston adds $4.1 million to summer jobs program

The City of Boston is boosting its summer jobs program with an extra $4.1 million, money that will help fund employment for about 8,000 young people in July and August. But because of the coronavirus, this year’s program will operate with some health precautions in place. Some internships will be virtual, for example, and the city will provide protective gear for students who will work onsite. Under the Mayor’s Youth Summer Jobs Program, young people aged 14 to 21 can work up to 25 hours per week at $12.75 an hour for six-weeks. Boston-based Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc. will welcome 35 high school students on July 6 as part of the program. Melodie Knowlton, director of the company’s Learning Lab, has been working to move the hands-on program to a Zoom experience. Students will receive lab kits from the biopharmaceutical company so that they can conduct science experiments from their homes, collaborating online with other student lab partners. Knowlton said Vertex will also provide community-building activities for the students, such as cooking classes. About 530 students will work outside on beautification projects managed by the city’s parks and public works departments. Another 400 students interested in graphic design will work on COVID-19 safety awareness and US Census outreach under the “Peer to Peer COVID-19 Campaign.” As part of the city’s “Virtual Options,” about 300 students will participate in remote positions, and roughly 450 students will take online college courses in tech, creative economy, and human services. — ANISSA GARDIZY