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Housing eyed for Downtown Crossing office building


While residential projects stall due to the financial crunch, one developer is bullish on converting a Downtown Crossing office building into apartments.

“This will be the only moderately priced rental building in the downtown,” said Harold Brown, chairman of the Hamilton Co., the Allston-based landlord who owns more than 2,300 units in Greater Boston.

Brown intends to transform the 12-story mid-rise at the corner of Winter and Washington streets into 51 apartments. In a shopping district where a 550-square-foot luxury studio apartment at the Archstone Boston Common on lower Washington fetches $2,855 and rents at the nearby Devonshire range from $2,200 to $4,300, Brown will offer one-bedrooms for $1,750 and two-bedrooms from $2,200.

“We bought the building a long time ago, so we don’t need the big rents to make the numbers work,” said Brown who paid $6.5 million for the property in 1982.

The news of apartments for Downtown Crossing comes on the heels of a decision by John B. Hynes to jettison plans for condominiums at One Franklin, the planned redevelopment of Filene’s, because he was unable to to secure financing amid a global credit crunch.

Rosemarie Sansone, president of the Downtown Crossing Partnership, hailed Brown’s decision as good news for the area. “This is tremendous,” she said. “As Suffolk University attracts new faculty and graduate students from out of town, think of the convenience.”

A recent report by Jones Lang LaSalle, a global commercial real estate firm, found that the vacancy rate for downtown Boston apartments has been steady in the low 4 percent range. The average asking rent is $2,200.

Brown expects to start work on the $18.5 million renovation on Winter Street by late summer.

“We will have no problem getting financing,” he said.

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