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Last vestige of failed Downtown Crossing mall could become state offices

The BPDA board is scheduled to vote tomorrow on a plan to turn the long vacant storefronts of the failed Lafayette Mall along Washington Street into office space for the state Department of Industrial Accidents.

The space, now adorned with window posters with odd sayings like "There is no angry way to say bubbles" and "clapping," has been largely empty since at least 2002 - more than five years after the fortress-like mall shut.

Under the plan going before the board tomorrow, the current storefront windows will be turned into office windows and the doors along Washington Street taken out completely - with an entrance to be built on Avenue de Lafayette for the 40,000 square feet the state will lease.

According to a memo to the BPDA board by BPDA planners, the Abbey Group, which now calls the structure Lafayette City Center, has been unable to find any retailers to rent the space in what is still one of New England's largest retail areas, in part because of "a significant grade change" from Avenue de Lafayette up Washington Street towards Winter and Summer streets. According to the BPDA, the state department approached the Abbey Group, looking for space near public transportation.

According to the BPDA, the proposal has the approval of the Downtown Boston Business Improvement District: "There were no objections to the conversion of retail space to office use."

The agency held no public hearings on the proposal, after determining the change from retail to office space "does not constitute a fundamental
change" under the development laws under which the initial mall and later uses were allowed.

The BPDA board meeting begins at 3:30 p.m. in the agency's ninth-floor offices in City Hall.

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Comments

Always wondered if no one really wanted to rent there, or if the LL just wanted so much rent he drove any prospects away.

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Voting closed 7

Essentially a very large hole in the streetscape that sat vacant for over a decade when large chunks of the neighborhood flourished. Story sounds vaguely familiar to the Vornado strategy leaving a hole in the ground blighting the surrounding neighborhood forcing the city to cave to their demands for office rents which are higher per square foot in this neighborhood and easier to rent out the entire floorplate to a single occupant.

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Voting closed 11

In the middle of Summer and Washington? We could sell tickets!

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Voting closed 6

The Tall Deval. vs. Raucous Rollins. She'd kick his ass

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Voting closed 3

Why not replace the site with something that will contribute to the tax base, and add to the retail district?

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Voting closed 8

The state will just be leasing the space from a private company, so the property will still be on the city tax rolls.

As for retail, well, you know how mind-bendlingly onerous the slope on that part of Washington is, snort.

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Voting closed 20

Take a walk down Newbury or Boylston street and count the number of shops that require going up or down stairs to reach.

(I realize that this is undesirable for ADA reasons, and wouldn't be built this way today, but the grade change doesn't seem to keep non-disabled people from patronizing the stores.)

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Voting closed 4

There were steps and lifts inside the stores. Eddie Bauer had a half flight of stairs. The burger place had even more.

They aren't outside. They are inside.

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Voting closed 5

That place was an ill-conceived disaster from day one. The idea of building it like a fortress was apparently to shield shoppers with delicate sensibilities from the Combat Zone, which was still a thing when Lafayette opened. It was poorly lit and was designed in a "round" kind of way so one always felt like one was going around a bend and never knew what was coming up. Much of it always seemed empty of stores, though I remember a bookstore which was pretty good, a CVS and a Chess King with it's hideous 80s fashions. The food court was pretty good though and was frequently crowded during workdays. I would sometimes go on Saturdays when you would have expected it to be bustling with shoppers and the place would be basically deserted, save for a handful of elderly Asian men siting on benches and using it as a hangout, likely due to to it's proximity to Chinatown.

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Voting closed 21

At least one vendor in the food court sold beer in cups which made this early 20 something at the time very happy at the time to gram a beer at lunch and then head outside.

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Voting closed 0

Its been empty for 17 years, I hope the state is getting an amazing deal. But, I bet the developer donated to Baker/GOP and is getting paid more than what anyone else is willing to pay.

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Voting closed 9

Eddie Bauer outlet, Quiznos & more were there.

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Voting closed 2

Eddie Bauer outlet was there for quite a while, and I also recall a b.good. But yeah, much of it has been continuously vacant.

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Voting closed 4

Just like any other store on the street. The mall has been empty for so long that it qualifies as haunted. Although you would think that with all the development down there over the past 10 years another use could be found. Maybe Fajitas n Ritas could take over that space as all the students in the area have maxed out the old place.

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Voting closed 4

...does not deserve more space.

I'm kinda amazed that they can stay in business.

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Voting closed 6

...there was a "Know Fat" also - that later changed its name into something a little less obnoxious. That food was the blandest stuff ever, though. Good riddance.

I work across from that wasteland, and though more retail would be very welcome IMO, I'm just glad that they're finally working on getting *something* in there.

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Voting closed 0

Are by most accounts a cold, greedy, heartless cabal of number crunchers who see real estate as a commodity.

The blight of empty storefronts along Newbury are another example of them using write offs and loopholes as a business model versus working with neighborhoods toward vibrant and long term growth.

Any and all dealings with them should be done knowing full well they give precisely ZERO concern for anything other than next quarters balance sheet.

Shame.

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Voting closed 7

You think Abbey Group executives Robert Epstein, David Epstein, Shane Baron, Marc Goldstein, Jason Epstein, Audrey Epstein, Alan Goodman, and Pete Goodman are "a cold, greedy, heartless cabal of number crunchers"?

Interesting.

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Voting closed 3

perhaps it says more about you

Ive personally sat across from these people and begged for SLIGHT accommodations just weeks following the worst terrorist attack in US history when retail was in the toilet.

Remember G.W. telling us all to go shopping?

Abbey Group did. not. care.

30% rent increase to a 10yr tenant at the first of the year.

(The place sat empty for 3 years)

L'Chaim!

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Voting closed 2

There had been a proposal to put in a Jillians type operating in the space, but the "neighborhood" said no... sometimes there is too much neighborhood involvement in this town!

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Voting closed 6

I haven't heard of any proposal for downtown crossing. Do you have a source? And who was opposed, the college students next door?

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Voting closed 1

Wow that is terrible.

First of all, when that building was built, the developer should have been required to reintroduce Bedford Street between Chauncy and Washington, as it was historically, to break up the superblock--long blocks like that immediately diminish walkability.

Second of all, the "increase in grade" excuse is misguided. If the development team had designed smaller and more appealing/visible retail bays, then they definitely would have been rented. A huge issue with newly built commercial buildings these days is that the retail bays are often far too large, thus decreasing the number of potential tenants, and they also seem to vanish into the building rather than pop out at passersby.

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Voting closed 3

Agreed that the superblock should be broken up, but...

Wasn't this building the urban renewal project that created the superblock?

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Voting closed 1

The first question I would ask the Abbey group is what were you charging retail tenants per square foot? If the answer is an exorbitantly High price that no retailer on Earth could afford then the second question would be how many potential retailers approached you and were unable to afford your rent?

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Voting closed 5

They had approached many large retail companies about leasing the space, the major problem was the loading dock ceiling clearance did not allow for full sized delivery trucks. A Target or any other retailer would not be able to get product in easily. The second issue is the price/sq. ft. They had approached my company at one point about doing something in the space and the figure was so astronomical we laughed.

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Voting closed 2