The Center Plaza mixed-use complex, which is much maligned by many Bostonians for its bland, curved, brick facade, is getting a much-needed makeover. Built in the 1960s by renowned Boston real estate developer Norman Leventhal, it includes three office buildings, a 575-space parking garage and street level retail. Situated across from City Hall at 1-3 Center Plaza, the development has been showing its age for many years now.

Last year, the development was acquired by Shorenstein Co. for $307 million. The developer is now pouring $25 million into renovating it in the hopes that it becomes more of a destination as opposed to something people merely pass through or around. Will their investment pay off? That remains to be seen, but there's no question that the renovation project is very ambitious.

Current Design

Many Bostonians are eagerly awaiting this renovation, which will hopefully make Center Plaza nicer to look at and more attractive to businesses. It was built during the urban renewal period of the city, when massive upheavals to the design of this area occurred. The building has a vast, 1,000-foot facade of red brick and deep concrete window casements. Unfortunately, the developer has decided it would cost far too much to do anything about the facade, so it will remain unchanged. On a more positive note, the Boston Redevelopment Authority, or BRA, signed off on the developer's plans in early October, and the work will begin before the end of the year.

Planned Changes

Perhaps the most notable change that will occur during the project is the addition of a 21,000-square-foot penthouse with vast expanses of glass. Light and airy, it will provide additional office space and will include a rooftop garden. The garden will bring much-needed greenery to the building and will hopefully distract the eyes from its long, bland facade.

Currently, the ground-level retail in this development is uninspired and largely overlooked by city dwellers. This project seeks to change that in a number of ways. First, new pavers will be laid to give it a more upscale, contemporary look. The lighting will be upgraded to make it brighter and more approachable, as it feels somewhat cave-like at the moment. Benches will be installed to give people a place to sit and relax. The developer also plans to add greenery to the lobbies and passageways between buildings. Presumably, it will primarily be in the form of potted plants, but raised flowerbeds may be installed too.

Another goal of the project is to bring more locally owned restaurants to the ground-level retail section of the development. This will create buss and, with any luck, attract more people to the area. They are also hoping to bring more high-end shops to the strip for the same reason.

This nine-story, 720,000-square-foot complex will also be rebranded. However, the developer has not yet released any details, so we don't know what the new name will be. Whatever it is, it's sure to be more compelling than its current moniker, which implies that the development is the center of the action in this part of town. Sadly, that hasn't been the case for some time, and that's exactly what the developer wants to change.

This renovation project is just the latest in a series of big changes in this part of Boston. Redevelopment has also been happening at Congress Square, One Congress and Faneuil Hall Marketplace. Now that Center Plaza is being revamped too, this entire neighborhood will look a lot different before too long. The question, as always, is whether it will produce the desired results.

Boston City Properties keeps our finger on the pulse of real estate news throughout the city of Boston. We will continue to update you regarding this exciting redevelopment project, and we will alert you of new projects and developments as they occur.

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