There’s been a fair amount of press about the proposed Hayward Place residential development, which would, if built, replace what is currently a parking lot with a 14-story, high-rise tower with approximately 255 “loft-style” condo units.

In a nutshell, here’s what happened (according to published reports, which admittedly, I skimmed).

The parking lot is bounded by Washington Street, Hayward Place, Avenue de Lafayette, and Harrison Avenue, behind the Ritz-Carlton Towers, and near Downtown Crossing, Chinatown, and the Combat Zone (R.I.P.).

Millennium Partners, which built the Ritz-Carlton Towers and One Charles, won a competition, in 2003, to build on the site, proposing a high-rise office tower (every other developer proposed residential housing on the site).

But, then, last year (or early this year), Millennium Partners changed its mind, and told everyone they were going to build a residential high-rise, instead. The Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA), which owns the land, agreed.

The very close relationship between the BRA and Millennium Partners is what raises questions.

First, people are wondering why the BRA was able to take the land (from the city) by eminent domain, instead of putting the property up for sale, awarding it to the highest bidder, which could have, presumably, raised a lot more money.

Second, the BRA originally said that the parking lot would be sold to the winning developer, but is now holding onto it, leasing it to Millennium Partners.

Third, it appears that the BRA has agreed to reimburse Millennium Partners for all of the money it has paid in rent, if the BRA or city should take back the land.

The developer says that market conditions have changed, and that, “There’s been a dramatic shift in market forces, making office much less viable.”

Hmmm. That would probably be news to the mayor, who has proposed a 1,000 foot high office tower, to be built just blocks away. It would probably shock the developer of the South Station office tower, which was approved, just weeks ago.

My question is, seeing as the developer now wants to build residential instead of commercial, shouldn’t the property be put out to bid, again?

And, the unasked question is, did the BRA and Millennium Partners know, back in 2003, that Millennium was going to end up building residential housing, and not office space, when the BRA gave its original approval?

More information: Chinatown-area Office Tower Now Housing – By Adam Smith, SAMPAN

Hayward Developers Present to Chinatown
– By Adam Smith and Anita Chang, SAMPAN

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