La Vie®: A Program for the New Millennium. Literally.
The current heat wave and shirt-soaking humidity isn’t traditional weather for a fireside chat, but that’s exactly what Millennium Partners organized on Thursday, June 20 for the residents of the luxury developer’s upcoming Millennium Place residential building downtown at Washington and Avery. The Fireside Chat is one of eight programs that comprise La Vie® , a Millennium Partners social experience that is exclusive to Millennium Place residents. Each month, the program organizes a relaxed and intimate conversation with a fascinating guest speaker, often a member of the Boston community. Thankfully, Thursday’s inaugural Fireside Chat eschewed a roaring hearth in favor of a small, decorative fireplace in the Sports Club/LA’s air-conditioned Blu restaurant (Hallelujah!), and gave residents the cool chance to meet Handel Architects‘ Gary Handel and Blake Middleton, the building’s designers. They gave residents of the $220 million Millennium Place project a sneak peek at their future home. The hour-plus conversation, dubbed “Past, Present, and Future,” also covered the architectural and philosophical inspirations for the project design, the history of Downtown Crossing, and how they hope Millennium Place (and the future 60-story Millennium Tower Boston) will contribute to the ongoing revitalization of Downtown Crossing.
Add a few glasses of wine and plenty of elbow-grabbing, hand-shaking, back-patting schmoozing among the guests and you had a fun and surprisingly educational scene. It was a strong roll-out for the La Vie series, which was conceptualized because Millennium Partners believes in providing the residents of their buildings with unique amenities that enhance their living experience both inside and outside the building. And La Vie is certainly unique: Bi-weekly events offer a chance for neighbors to connect over celebrity-hosted socials, culinary events, group outings to downtown theaters and, of course, Fireside Chats with guest speakers.
It made sense to kick off the series by rolling out the proverbial red carpet for Millennium Place’s architects. New York City-based Handel Architects has a long history with Millennium. Together they helped to pioneer the evolution of mixed-use developments, said Handel and Blake. They also designed the One Charles building in Bay Village, as well as the Ritz-Carlton Hotel and Residences, located directly across Washington Street from Millennium Place. But a lot has changed downtown since the Ritz opened in 2001. When Millennium Place hands over keys to its residences—nearly 70 percent of which are now under agreement—it will be in a neighborhood that is much more vibrant than it was a decade ago. There’s a reinvigorated theater scene and a re-energized dining scene, too; in fact, it was just announced that Legal Crossing (“LX”), a new concept from Boston’s own Roger Berkowitz, is going to inhabit the ground floor of Millennium Place. It will even have a private dining room, The Club, with a special menu just for those who live in the 256 residences.
The addition of Millennium Place will contribute not only to the development of Downtown Crossing, said Handel, but to Boston’s increased stature within the new generation of cities. These are “cities of choice,” said Handel, who presented a historic overview of the evolution of metropolises, from the first generation of defense centers (think ancient, walled cities) to logical centers of economy (usually transportation arteries, like major railroad hubs or seaports). Now, said Handel, “what we’re seeing is the evolution in first-world cities to something called cities of choice. People who live there don’t necessarily have to live in town, but they choose to because of what cities offer: the opportunity to be with other likeminded individuals, experience the arts and culture.”
“As a result,” he continued, “cities are in competition for the best and brightest.”
It’s the development of a vibrant downtown—achieved through residences and commercial spaces like Millennium Place and the upcoming Millennium Tower Boston—that fosters an environment that keeps future top talent here. But in explaining the architectural choices that characterize Millennium Place, Middleton went into great detail on the near and far sources of inspiration. These ranged from the bay window façade, characteristic of New England, to the Bauhaus-inspired grids and lattices. Even the way Millennium Place sits on the street is the result of a very conscious thought process. The architects looked to Regent Street in London’s West End for inspiration on how Millennium Place’s plot could help shape the curvature and character of the streetscape.
That’s important, said Middleton: “The challenge of every urban designer is understanding what the street is all about. The street is the lifeblood of how cities work. It’s the circulation system.”
Much like La Vie is the lifeblood of Millennium Place, connecting its residents to the community and to each other even before they have officially become neighbors. Millennium Place opens for occupancy in the autumn.