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Developer proposes changing Downtown Crossing office building into life-sciences space

A San Diego real-estate firm says it wants to transform the floors above the CVS on Summer Street in Downtown Crossing into life-sciences labs and offices.

In a letter of intent filed with the BPDA, Phase 3 Real Estate Partners says the move would "broaden the range of potential tenants" for a 10-story building that originally went up as a headquarters for the Charlestown Savings Bank in 1974.

Phase 3 bought the building last March from locally based Synergy for $10.6 million.

The company says it would not change the basic footprint of the building, but would add beefier mechanical equipment to the roof to handle the extra needs of biotech labs.

The company says the CVS would remain in place, but in front of plaza that Phase 3 plans to spruce up.

Phase 3 says it will soon file detailed plans for its proposed redo of the building and plaza.

55 Summer St. filings and meeting schedule.

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Comments

starting to get a real Beanie Babies/Dutch Tulip Crash of 1637 vibe from all these promises of all this miracle lab space? Just me?

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It feels like every developer is trying to claw back the money they blew on Wework and NFTs

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those bitcoins somehow.

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Developers need to get financing from somewhere. Obviously there are some bankers or investors who think there's money to be made in life science rentals.

No doubt it's still cheaper then converting to housing. The city ought to drop all "affordable" requirements for large scale office to housing projects on the basis that it's still more units and isn't displacing anyone.

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yeah, because it's the affordable part that is raising costs of these $3000+ a month apartment buildings

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Forcing developers to give away units that cost $600-700,000 to build for $200,000 means they price market-rate units higher in order to make up for the losses, which in turn means they only build in areas where prospective buyers are actually willing to pay those higher prices. Or did you think developers are charities who would build at a loss?

Office towers, particularly large ones, are in general poor candidates to convert to housing because the floor plates tend to be big, with a lot of windowless interior space relative to the perimeter.

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Getting in the way of The Narrative.

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You could convert office towers to housing if you were creative - think cities-within-a-tower, where all the perimeter/windows are the residential units and then the vast interior spaces become amenities - grocery store on floor 4, post office and bank on floor 5, community medical clinic on floor 6. Floor 7 was full of conference rooms so those can be little shops or even remain as office space, workhubs or whatever. The big entrance atrium on floors 1-3 becomes indoor gardens and a playground for children.

But the amount of $$ and third party commitments needed to achieve that kind of thing is not in line with making a profit, so it's not going to happen.

Maybe we need to think about this more creatively. The floor plate definitely doesn't work well for traditional residential space. But I can envision something similar to a donut, wherein the housing is on the outer ring, and on the inner ring there are other activities, like vertical farming, order processing, etc. Imagine a mixed use building that combines housing and productivity. It could work, and the reality is, many office buildings won't be worth much at all if we can't figure out how to repurpose them.

Are you willing to pay $5,000/sqft or so in order to make it worthwhile?

No, but maybe there are things the city or state (a.k.a. all us of collectively) can do to bring the direct development costs down to a more feasible level instead of just throwing up our hands and abandoning our fate to market forces.

In terms of commercial real estate there's a lot to be said about Lab Space as a safer investment - it's impervious to work from home or other efforts to eliminate space rentals, for one. Lab Space - especially life sciences related lab space - is also attached to federal grant funding and NIH monies which gives it some insulation against market instability. The federal government is not about to stop funding gene therapy research, or whatever, even if there's a recession - grants are issued for years of research at a time and that money is committed so recessions aren't as big of a factor.

That said, it's not such a stable/sure bet that it makes sense to go ALL IN on ALL BUILDINGS the way Boston seems to want to. A lot of this work is being done through universities and hospitals which already by and large have a lot of facilities, and if they don't, they'll want to buy their own, not sign a 10 year rental agreement with a private landlord.

It's hard because these buildings aren't really easy to adapt to other uses so I understand the appeal of lab space but you'd think the lesson would be learned here that a diverse portfolio is a safer bet for the city.

Boston is a city unwilling to learn lessons. We mostly just talk ourselves into knots and hope things work themselves out in the meantime.

It's very efficient! They can send the experimental drugs right downstairs to CVS for testing.

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How about we make it all residence instead?

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A developer would need to propose it and the city would need to approve their plans.

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Given the way majority of the office buildings are shaped, are you willing to pay a cool million or so for a 12x80 studio with a single window assuming you like daylight, or that same cool million for a more regularly configured and shaped apartment with no windows?

How about we take each building as it comes and decide if it can be residential easily or not?

Here's the floorplan of the fifth floor of the building being discussed:
https://marketplace.vts.com/listing/55-summer-street-boston-ma/dbc30eb8-...

That's probably 2-3 really nice sunny residences because of how this building is shaped.

I believe the reason is because gone are the days where law firms and finance firms all filled Boston's big pretty office buildings. What exactly goes on in a life science building?

I have some recollection of this building containing a department store called 'Syms' before CVS moved in.

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Since most new buildings look like something from SIM City!

Yeah it was.. in fact it was a two floor SYMS.

CVS was across the street where the former Uno To Go (UDG) was, next to McDonalds erm I mean Five Guys.

I thought the Health Connector's call center was upstairs tbh.. it was for years. They musta moved. But last time I was down that way the upper floors looked empty.

merged with Boston Five, and then swallowed up by Citizens (who care nothing about actual citizens), at the tail end of an industry feeding frenzy which wiped out virtually every 100+ year old local bank in Massachusetts.

After the banks disappeared, we had the conversion of offices into dotcom data center cages and server cages, which were all soon empty when the cash ran out and the euphoria ended.

Aside from history once again repeating itself, what about the air quality, say in nearby Chinatown on those low ceiling rainy/foggy days we seem to have all the time? What's spewing out of those "beefy mechanicals" on the 10th floor? I suppose that entrepeneur scientists are the smartest of the smartest guys in the room, and it's heresy to question them. Never mind.

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Where an educated consumer is their best customer!

Founded by Sy Syms, who, like me, went to Midwood HS in Brooklyn.

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Not the original on Summer Street, but the chain that lasted a few more years in locations such as Boylston Street in the Back Bay.

In the before time, before Bernie and Phyll, contemporaries of Eliot and Barry, and following the lead of people like Jerry Ellis.

I'd like to see some sort of Kinetic sculpture if they spruce up the front plaza. Something like the lollipops that used to be in front of 100 Summer Street.

Whale at the Aquarium was even better. At least we still have Hooker, appropriately in front of the State House.

So, any guesses on when we hit the limit on life-sciences spaces?

When developers suggest razing brownstones on Beacon Hill to build a Life Science Tower. Guaranteed to bring interest/investment in this in Downtown Boston to a complete stop.

this one is probably the worst.

i swear the carpet in some areas has been wet for years.