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Developer proposes converting offices in three older Downtown Crossing buildings into 95 apartments

A New York developer has filed plans with the BPDA to replace offices in three adjoining buildings it owns on Washington, Water and Washington, Water and Devonshire streets in Downtown Crossing with apartments, under a city pilot aimed at giving tax breaks to building owners who do just that.

Developer Kambiz Shahbazi's planned $36-million redo of the buildings would leave alone existing ground-floor retail space, good news for fans of Falafel King, which in fact is specifically shown on construction renderings in the application.

The Falafel King building is the shortest of the three buildings, six stories on Washington Street, next to the tallest, at Washington and Water, with eleven stories.

Some 17% of the units would be rented as affordable, according to the project's BPDA filing, which adds that 29 of the units would be studios, 54 would have one bedroom and 12 two bedrooms.

The new apartment building would have its main entrance on Devonshire Street.

It would have no on-site parking and space for just eight bicycles.

Under the city's office-to-residential pilot downtown, developers can get up to a 29-year break on property taxes for the building, through an abatement of up to 75% of the buildings' assessed value - as well as fast tracking through what can be a slow city approval process. The goal is to try to bring back life to a downtown that remains hard hit by a pandemic-spurred move to working at home.

In December, another developer filed plans for an office-to-residential conversion in a smaller building on Franklin Street.

85 Devonshire filings.

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Comments

That's the building where someone said they could see the T under the sidewalk.

No, it wasn't the T that is under the sidewalk, but it was the T who put in the bus stop which caused the sidewalk to crack so you could see into the hollow sidewalk.

https://www.universalhub.com/2021/ultimate-hollow-sidewalk-downtown-peer...

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Voting closed 18

Not a problem if each unit has an easily accessible and adequate storage space.

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Voting closed 21

Blue bikes to go just a short walk away.

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Voting closed 31

But not the answer for everyone.

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Voting closed 8

If you live right in the heart of downtown you don't really need a bike or a car. You have access to every subway in the middle of the spoke and hub system, plenty of Ubers and so much is right there within a mile.plus BlueBikes nearby if you really need to bike somewhere.

It's not like it's a great place to recreational bike either.

I have to assume anyone looking to live right there would be a minimalist who can pack their life up like a 1980s sitcom/movie character who manages to pack up their life in an hour and is standing at the door with a suitcase and carryon bag.

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Voting closed 31

It's not like it's a great place to recreational bike either.

It's not about recreation, it's about transportation. When multiple lines of the T break down every day, bike is a great way to get around downtown. But lack of bike spaces isn't what keeps this idea from being really viable.

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Voting closed 22

That's what I wonder with these proposals. These combined with folks that convince governments to give them millions to turn abandoned malls into homeless housing or shipping containers into oversized coffins, err I mean, "low-cost, low-impact, modular, temporary accommodations", make me wonder exactly how insulated from everyone else these politicians are.

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Voting closed 13

I've done my time in offices. I don't disagree that repurposing buildings designed as office space is a stupid solution as far as housing. My comment was only in response to the tossoff remark that bikes aren't useful downtown. The opposite is true.

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A reasonably-able-bodied person can walk from this location to anywhere else downtown in 20 minutes or less; I know, because I do it all the time. A bike is not necessary for getting around downtown from here. Perhaps somebody who can't do that and can't/won't pay for BlueBikes would not be interested in these apartments, but that's fine. Not everything needs to be perfect for everyone.

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No one said anything about a bike being "necessary". Your legs aren't "necessary" either. They're functional and so is a bike. And "reasonably-able-bodied" is doing a lot of work here.

No one in their right mind is asserting that repurposing offices as housing is viable. Sheesh.

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Voting closed 9

they are means of transportation, and people shouldn't be expected to "just take an Uber" or walk. And goodness knows we can't trust the T.

Sure there's plenty close by, but, you know.. people often want to go places other than their immediate neighborhood. Bikes are so easily accommodated in such small areas of space that it makes no sense not to do so. Plus, plenty of high density metros have high rates of bike use.

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Voting closed 21

They are even skinnier than the cows the streets were intended for.
It’s not ideal for huge motor vehicles.

Recreational biking is fine but I’ve only ever done it for transportation in the decades I’ve been riding all over Boston. The good feeling from riding a bike is a perk for many but not necessarily the goal.

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Voting closed 13

slapping up more office buildings.

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The downtown office development market has been fairly quiet the last couple of years. One guess why.

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Voting closed 54

Get it done. Move on to the next.

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Voting closed 58

Do you have a list of them which can be converted?

We would love to see it.

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Must everything be a problem? Let’s not post when we have nothing to say.

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Voting closed 29

Let’s not post when we have nothing to say.

First day on the internet?

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Voting closed 22

Nobody wants anyone else to own anything any more.

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Or time for a commute of over 90 minutes each way?

How about 4% interest rate mortgages?

It isn't that people don't want to own - they can't.

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I said nobody wants the rest of us to own anything. Everything built now is a fucking rental building. Corporations are buying single family homes and renting them out.

We can't afford it because it's profitable to not let you afford it.

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Supporting Amazon gave Bezos the wealth to do things like start Arrived Homes.

Supporting businesses like Airbnb lead to a rapid expansion of corporate hosts who removed long term rentals from the housing market.

Aaron in the statehouse isn't going to support Wu's plan for rent control anytime soon. Too many of his supporters are landlords.

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Long live the Falafel King

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What's the plan for 60 State, International Place, Exchange Place? Curious to know how many tenants are left. Blue Chip Law Forms and other anchor tenants jumping on The Big Flight of Plight train?

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Life science labs to apartments. Fume hoods to cook in. Milli-Q water for your coffee. Lots of bench space for hobby work. Safety showers if your gender reveal involves silly string and candles.

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Joe & Nemo's could make a comeback. There's no telling what other great establishments might also return. Mickey Finn's, Raymonds, Baileys, RH Stearns, SS Pierce, the Naked i. What I miss most is the clam chowder at the Steaming Kettle.

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I hope the "it's hard to convert these buildings" machine stops soon.

We have put people on the moon, have driver-less cars, invented life-saving medication, but when it comes to making offices into apartments, it's all "Oh wow that's really hard, I dunno about that, the challenges are too much to overcome". OBVIOUSLY you have to work around things, but hearing how this is the impossible dream, is nauseating.

Also, if anyone uses the "zoning" excuse, we have crowds of people literally living in public buildings and airports and in the parks, so I also really despise seeing the excuse of "zoning" as a reason to not build housing.

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Voting closed 17

Show me the schematics.
Now show me the budget.

Edit.

It's hard to make the math work, as others have pointed out. Also, I only know from second-sand experience from reading about it, so I'm no expert.

But logically there are a limited number of buildings suitable. Few buildings can be converted and the total converted will not make a significant difference to the number of available units in the area.

I think shorter buildings (up to 20 storeys?) Is one limitation. Also, floor plates sizes.

The buildings downtown that where built post 1872 fire and before the modern skyscraper (.. 1920?) Work because they aren't too dense. The Custom House has residential on the top floors but that's the exception.

There are only a handful of large buildings built between 1920s and 1960s that would work.

Perhaps it's still worth doing but I fear it distracts from the main message: more (multi-unit) housing is needed.

Sadly, economics won't allow that to happen right now, which is why prices will always be high. If a recession and world pandemic didn't kill the local real estate market, it's hard to see what will.

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Especially when you run into the wall of economics.

Yes, we put people on the moon when we had a government that was willing to blow billions of dollars on that project. If the government wants to spend billions of dollars on housing then they can get housing built. But we also have close to a century of history demonstrating that government housing projects generally ain't great.

Most office buildings constructed after the middle of the 20th century are nearly impossible to convert because the floor plates are so large. Unless you're willing to have windowless interior units or just leave large parts of the building empty you can't use all the space. There are many other issues -- you have to completely revamp the HVAC, for example, because office buildings aren't designed to have a dozen or more zones per floor. You have to completely redo the plumbing because offices are designed with a couple of communal bathrooms and maybe kitchens on each floor.

The "work around things" part ends up being that it'd be more expensive to convert many office buildings than to demolish them and start again.

Some people love the car-free lifestyle, and some won't even consider a place to live that doesn't offer parking. As you go to the higher end of the market, more people fall into the latter category for any number of reasons. So if you've got an office building with no parking it becomes more difficult to address that end of the residential market.

People living at the airport or on the street aren't paying out cash for the accommodations. It's a little different when you're trying to get people to cough up $4,000/month for a studio.

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In fairness the barrier to converting office buildings into apartments isn't tech based. It's economic.

We haven't had people on the moon in my lifetime. They are perfectly capable of doing it but economically it's just not happening. Heck if money was no object we could feed the world and cure so many diseases.

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