Downtown Crossing’s renaissance

For those wondering what the turnaround of Downtown Crossing means for the city of Boston, two stories this week in the Boston Globe and CommonWealth magazine provide some perspective.

The Globe on Wednesday splashed a column by Thomas Farragher across its front page proclaiming that Downtown Crossing “is back in the show.” Farragher does a good job of capturing the vibrancy of the area, interviewing store managers, restaurant owners, the head of the Business Improvement District, and Tony Pangaro of Millennium Partners, the development firm behind several ultra-luxury condo buildings that have transformed the area.

“To walk through the neighborhood today is to discover a deceptive stunning reality,” Farragher writes. “It’s a neighborhood, a truly vibrant one, after all.”

CommonWealth’s story, published on Tuesday, looks at the rebirth of Downtown Crossing primarily through the lens of the 60-story Millennium Tower, the Millennium Partners building that literally filled the giant hole in the ground that plagued the area for years. The story tries to answer who is moving into this emerging neighborhood (an estimated 23 percent of the tower’s owners are from China) and what their arrival says about the city.

“What it says is that rich people from all over the world are interested in living in Boston,” said Larry DiCara, a real estate development attorney and former city councilor.  “You can say that’s a good thing or you can say it’s a bad thing. Whatever you think, it’s a dramatic change in the demographics of the city.”

More change is on the way. Millennium Partners is now planning to build a retail-office-condo tower at Winthrop Square and Carpenter & Co. is building a tower in Back Bay with condo prices that are even higher than at Millennium Tower. The Back Bay penthouse unit reportedly has sold in a presale for $40 million, $5 million above the grand penthouse price at Millennium Tower.

CommonWealth’s story includes a debate of sorts between Tito Jackson, a Roxbury city councilor challenging Mayor Marty Walsh in this fall’s mayoral election, and Sheila Dillon, Walsh’s director of neighborhood services. Jackson is worried about the ultra-luxury trend, while Dillon says the influx of wealthy residents can be managed to the benefit of all Bostonians.

Pangaro jumps into this debate in Farragher’s column. Interviewed in a $4 million unit on the 53d floor of Millennium Tower, Pangaro said the focus shouldn’t just be on ultra-luxury condos. “Anybody who thinks this is just a luxury residential project doesn’t see the whole piece,” he said. “The economic driver is up on these upper floors, but the place where the thing meets the ground has to be right not only for the people who live here, but it has to be part of the city or you may as well put a fence around it and put it out beyond [Interstate] 495.”

–BRUCE MOHL


BEACON HILL

A Herald editorial applauds the House for including in its budget proposal authorization for the state to take over management of the MBTA pension system.

Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr files legislation requiring internet providers in Massachusetts to obtain permission before collecting and sharing data on customers. Tarr’s legislation runs counter to his party’s recent moves in Washington. (Salem News) Connor Lentz wrote about the Republican congressional action here. (CommonWealth)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Holyoke’s Alex Morse, the Massachusetts mayor who isn’t afraid of pot. (CommonWealth)

An Easton resident who was named to a search committee for a new town administrator is coming under fire for homophobic and other inflammatory social media posts. (The Enterprise)

South Shore communities are getting ready to do battle with mosquitoes. (Patriot Ledger)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

President Trump is causing “geopolitical whiplash” with his administration’s strident denunciations of Russia after months of cozying up to Vladimir Putin and with investigations looking at potential contacts between Trump’s campaign and Russian operatives looking to help tilt the US election in his favor. (New York Times)

White House spokesman Sean Spicer apologizes for his comments claiming Hitler never used chemical weapons. (Time)

ELECTIONS

A new poll indicates President Trump, despite his setbacks in Washington, remains very popular with his backers in central Massachusetts. (WBUR)

Sen. Elizabeth Warren rakes in $5.2 million during first three months of 2017. (Associated Press)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Greater Boston continues to be inhospitable to construction of moderately-priced housing, as zoning restrictions and NIMBYism keep a lid on housing supply and make it hard for young people to settle down and raise families, writes George Donnelly. (Boston Globe)

Barbara Lynch, who says she’s not a “foodie foodie,” discusses her journey to become one of Boston’s top chefs. (WGBH)

EDUCATION

Barry Mills, the incoming interim chancellors at the University of Massachusetts Boston, tells a meeting of the university’s trustees that the budget process at the deficit-plagued school is “fundamentally broken,” while outgoing chancellor Keith Motley delivers a passionate address saying he has no regrets about his tenure. (CommonWealth) Greg Beeman of Associated Builders and Contractors of Massachusetts says project labor agreements committing UMass Boston to only use union construction labor on its expansion projects are responsible for some of the financial woes of the campus. (Boston Globe)

State officials give New Bedford educators positive marks for their turnaround efforts, but stats indicate the public school system still has a long way to go. (South Coast Today)

The Boston Teachers Union says the city’s school department is trying to intimidate teachers who have talked to the press about the consequences of budget cuts and other issues. (Boston Globe)

TRANSPORTATION

Harry Lightsey of General Motors says Massachusetts lawmakers must remove roadblocks to autonomous vehicles. (CommonWealth)

Salem lawmakers say they will push for interim bus service this summer when the MBTA shuts down weekend commuter rail service to install mandated crash-avoidance equipment. (Salem News)

Uber loses another top official. (New York Times)

The Pittsfield Municipal Airport, after years of red ink, is showing signs that it may be close to profitability. (Berkshire Eagle)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Haverhill approves a waste (cow manure/food scraps) to energy digester at Crescent Farm in Bradford. (Eagle-Tribune)

CASINOS

A federal appeals court delivers a huge win to the Aquinnah Wampanoag tribe’s effort to open a casino on Martha’s Vineyard, overturning a lower court ruling that the tribe had not shown enough “actual manifestations” of government authority to open a gambling facility. (Boston Globe)

To keep Massachusetts casinos competitive with those in other states, the House Ways and Means budget plan proposes delaying last call by two hours to 4 a.m. (CommonWealth)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

A top state probate administrator, who has been nominated for a judgeship by Gov. Charlie Baker, was responsible for shuttling a probate employee among various county offices, including the troubled Suffolk probate registry, despite the employee’s record of alleged use threatening language and vulgar ethnic slurs. (Boston Globe)

Baker files a bill proposing to allow defendants to work off fines through community service rather than being held in jail when they can’t afford the levies. (Boston Globe)

A new capital master plan for state courts proposes big upgrades and consolidations to be rolled out over the next 20 years. (Boston Herald)

MEDIA

The Barr Foundation donates $300,000 to WBUR to create an investigative reporting team that will apparently focus on opioid addiction, climate change, and immigration. (Current)

Dan Kennedy ponders the power of journalism after the Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold wins the Pulitzer Prize for reporting on shady practices of the Trump Foundation and the secret recording of Trump bragging about sexual assaults — but Trump nevertheless won the election. (WGBH News)

PASSINGS

John Geils Jr., a guitarist who found fame with the J. Geils Band, is found dead in his Groton home at the age of 71. (Boston Globe)