Signals Downtown Crossing’s Dramatic Shift from Shopping Area on the Slide to Neighborhood on the Rise

With the construction of the 60-floor Millennium Tower nearing completion, Bostonians are not only seeing a change in the city’s skyline, but a transformation of  the area surrounding Boston’s soon-to-be third-highest skyscraper.

Formerly the location of Filene’s basement, the site was the subject of controversy for many years until Millennium Partners took the helm in 2012 and eventually began construction with the help of Suffolk Construction and 65 subcontractors, including JM Electrical, the region’s leading, locally owned contractor for automated heating and cooling systems.

JM installed a state-of-the-art building automation system, and 75 percent of the Tower’s electricity will be generated from renewable energy sources. In addition, the company helped install Millennium’s modern carbon monoxide exhaust system and emergency power generating system.

“As a company specializing in energy management systems, we pride ourselves on contributing to one of Boston’s growing LEED certified buildings, bringing more energy efficiency to our city,” said Matthew Guarracino, business development manager of JM Electrical.  “We are thrilled by the opportunity to add Millennium Tower to our list of high profile, successful projects providing jobs to more than 140 employees company-wide.”

Not only has Millennium Tower generated economic opportunity for contractors like JM, but surrounding businesses in the Downtown Crossing neighborhood have also begun reaping the benefits from the influx of new residents. Millennium Tower adds hundreds of residences to the recently growing list, as buildings such as the Ritz Carlton and Millennium Place transform Downtown Crossing to a bustling community, bringing growing number of customers to local businesses.

“The business we anticipate is phenomenal, because five years ago there was nothing in this area but tumbleweeds.” says Greg Weinstock, General Manager of the nearby Salvatore’s Restaurant, located next to the Boston Opera house. “But now so many people are starting to live around here, and it’s bringing in regulars to the business.”

Salvatore’s is just one of many businesses in the area—part of which was once labelled Boston’s “Combat Zone”—that today are benefitting from the growing number of residences.

Jake Kennedy, co-owner of Kennedy Brothers Physical Therapy, also can’t believe the transition in the neighborhood over the 28 years he has practiced there.

“I used to leave work at 10 p.m. and it would be a virtual ghost town,” said Kennedy.  “Nowadays, people are going to restaurants and walking their dogs at 10 o’clock.   I never thought I would see it.”

As part of the shift, Kennedy says his clientele is quickly shifting from a work crowd to people living in the neighborhood.

Mark Weld, an experienced developer in the Boston area, has seen first-hand the evolution of downtown Boston with the development of Millennium Tower.

“Millennium said ‘we believe in the site and it’s all financed, but we want to make it all residential,’ and that was welcomed, because they had demonstrated that they could do this stuff,” said Weld. “[They] started to build their tower. And then lots of people started to come and buy real estate in the area, so all of a sudden you have all the things that are most important for a vibrant neighborhood. You have all this infrastructure, and the public transportation was huge, so it began to attract tenants.”

Weld added that the Tower works well in the area because of infrastructure and the balance between residential, retail and commercial office space. “That’s the key,” said Weld, “To have a balanced, full-service, 24/7 environment… and it will get even better when people populate the Millennium building.”

Shane Smyth,co-owner of The Merchant, a popular restaurant located on Franklin Street, has been a witness to the transformation of the neighborhood with Millennium nearing completion, saying, “Right from the beginning we knew downtown had a great future. It’s exciting to see the neighborhood grow. It’s started an upward trend and Millennium Tower has certainly added to it.” Smyth also noted a growth in the community’s businesses: “It’s great to see new developments and new businesses in the area.”

To be sure, Millennium Tower marks a new chapter for downtown Boston, creating a community where once a business-only area stood. As residences like the Ritz Carlton and Millennium increase and bring in consumers for local businesses, plans are being laid from new building, such as the skyscraper contemplated at the site of the old Winthrop Street garage.  What was not long ago a somewhat blighted area has been rejuvenated.  And with it comes renewed economic vitality—for the neighborhood and the region.

Original Article BostInno