Filene’s Site Back in Play?

In today’s Boston Globe, it was reported that Peter Meade, Director of the BRA, indicated a willingness to work with the REIT, Vornado, to move forward on the stalled Filene’s Franklin Street development.  This is good news for the Washington Street corridor and the city. 

The reality is that the problem with this project has never really been the developer; it has been the deep recession that put a freeze on all speculative commercial development in the country.  There was a thought that the city could permit a downsized project for a new buyer.  The problem with that is two-fold.  First, it was unlikely from the start that Vornado was going to sell the site at a deep discount.  They are not being pressed by a lender to sell –it’s their own money sitting in this hole (all $200 million of it!) Secondly, the city would be shorting themselves of substantial real estate taxes that would have eventually come from the office and hotel towers when the market returned.

This location is a premium one and when office vacancies start to fall and rents rise, this will be one of the first sites to see a crane.  In the meantime, there is demand for retail, parking, and apartments.  It sounds to me like the approval for a phased project allowing for a future tower could be a win-win for the city and the developer.

Let’s just hope the talks continue.

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