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Developers Scrap Office Plans to Build More Residential Space

Two of the city's biggest developers recently changed proposals, reducing office space in favor of more residential space. Why that might be good for Boston.

Boston developers are hot for housing and cool on office space lately—and that could be a good thing for the city.

The Abbey Group recently announced a sharp change to its $150 million mixed-use project in Fenway. The original plans, approved by the Boston Redevelopment Authority in November, called for about 100,000 square feet of office space. But the developer decided to scrap all of it to increase the building’s residential count from 210 apartments to 322 units of apartments and condominiums.

That announcement follows a similar change in plans from Millennium Partners. The team behind the proposed tower at the former Filene’s site in Downtown Crossing submitted revised plans this summer that slashed proposed office space from 469,000 square feet to no more than 218,000 square feet in favor or nearly quadrupling the building’s residential units from 166 to 600.

Why might that be a good thing?

During a recent conversation with Patch, State Rep. Marty Walsh said he didn’t think that the city’s current construction boom would peak until developers turned their attention to general office space.

Reached for comment on this article, Walsh said that the change in Fenway may have been neighborhood-specific.

“[Fenway] is such a hot residential market,” Walsh said. He added that he expects to see office space come to Downtown Crossing soon—perhaps next year.

Millennium Partners did not return a call for comment, but Audrey Epstein-Reny director of marketing for The Abbey Group confirmed that the decision to change the Fenway project was based on local factors.

“We spent the last year specifically looking at that neighborhood and determined there was a greater demand for housing than additional office space,” Epstein-Reny said.

She added that Boston continues to be a strong real estate market.

“We have projects on properties throughout the city,” she said, “and Boston continues to be a strong city for real estate development.”

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