The BPDA board yesterday approved the Abbey Group's plan to turn long vacant storefront space along Washington Street into offices for a state agency, after the company said the move could help it rent out space between that and Macy's for the sort of retail uses that Downtown Crossing is known for.
In fact, the Abbey Group's David Epstein said yesterday, his company hopes to rent out the space near Macy's to retail tenants "very soon."
After the Lafayette Mall failed in the 1990s, its owner reconfigured and rented out much of its space for offices, but neither it, nor the Abbey Group, which bought the hulking building in 2002, found much success renting out its storefronts along Washington.
"It's been frustrating," Epstein told the BPDA board. But despite their love of finding and fixing technical challenges with empty space, Abbey Group officials were simply unable to overcome the fact that the space closer to Avenue de Lafayette is on a slab roughly seven feet above the sidewalk - which scares away prospective retail tenants - and that the company could not change that because the space sits atop a parking garage, he said.
Epstein tried to put a shine on the decision to lease 40,000 square feet to the state Department of Industrial Accidents, saying it will mean far more people coming into the space than retail space would bring - especially because the department serves as a sort of courthouse where people are coming and going all day for hearings.
The extra traffic, in turn, will increase the desirability of the space adjacent to Macy's - "it will be much more rentable," he said.
Under the plans approved by the BPDA board, the company will redesign the Washington Street side of the erstwhile mall, near Avenue de Lafayette to eliminate its entrances and to create new windows through which workers can look out at the street and pedestrians can look up at the workers. The entrance to the state offices will be on Avenue de Lafayette.
Epstein did not specify who is looking at renting the remaining storefront space.
BPDA staff memo on the proposal - includes a history of the site after the mall failed.