Globe Calls the Burnham One of Boston’s Best New Buildings

Posted January 23, 2015 by Rosalind Saul in Urban Living
Millennium Tower Boston Burnham

If you’ve only recently noticed that the Downtown Crossing area has gotten a  much-needed facelift style attention, you aren’t the only one.  What was previously a down-and-out looking neighborhood imagined by tourists and locals alike as dark, gritty, and past its prime, has received the polish it deserves in recent years. Last year saw the construction of several exciting buildings in the area and one of them (the Burnham building, previously home to Filene’s department store) has been singled out by the Boston Globe as one of the city’s “two best buildings…produced in 2014”.

Here at the Voice, we’ve been keeping a close eye on the Burnham Building renovation project.  Like many of our neighbors, we harbored some doubts about whether the renovation would preserve the historic nature of the building. Since it is such a precious piece of Boston’s history, this concern was a huge one for many Bostonians. Luckily, it has been proven unfounded; project developer Millennium Partners was true to its word and the new and improved Burnham Building is both classic and modern, and doing one heck of a job in aiding the Downtown Crossing facelift that’s been underway for for some time.

Spring of 2015 will mark the opening of many businesses now taking residence in the improved Burnham building (including a flagship store for the Roche Bros. Grocery conglomerate).  Downtown Bostonians should be on the lookout for what’s sure to be a rush of exciting retail venues in the location providing shopping convenience and a luxurious historic setting all in one easy-to-reach place.

The building (located adjacent to Millennium Tower Boston at Washington and Franklin Sts.) is a historic Boston landmark.  First completed in 1912 as the site of the Filene’s flagship store, it was then renovated to expand the store to cover an entire city block.  The building was master minded by Chicago architect Daniel Burnham as what turned out to be his last major project and his only work in Boston.  Burnham is perhaps best known for his work as head architect for the triangular New York City Flat Iron Building, and the 1839 Chicago World’s Fair.  Boston’s Burnham Building, then, is not just a piece of New England history, but also an important American building. Unfortunately, with the closure of the Filene’s Department store, the building fell into disuse. After many long years of such, it fell into tragic disrepair. Not until 2014 were renovations able to be initiated; and now they’re just about finished.

The 2014 restoration (costing a whopping $120 million) has created a plethora of office and retail space on the premises (370,000 square feet of it to be exact).  Several tech companies (including Havas Media) have seen the location’s promise, and have thereby taken up residence in the newly refurbished space. What better way to envision Boston’s past perfectly wedded to its present and future than to think of the technology being used and supported in one of Boston’s great historic locales.

This fresh new energy that the Burnham revamp (and its new tenants) lends Downtown Crossing has given it a revitalized hipness; a zest for its new life that is palpable. Taking a walk in the downtown area by day or night will be better than ever this Spring thanks to redevelopment efforts such as those which produced the new and improved Burnham building.  It’s just one more way that Boston is truly getting lovelier with age.