281 Franklin Street Update 03/15/24

First Office to Resi Conversion Under BPDA’s Incentive Program Approved

Boston Pinnacle Properties has won approval to convert the office building located at 281 Franklin Street in Downtown Boston to residential use. The firm is leading the charge to utilize Boston’s new Downtown Residential Conversion Incentive Pilot Program. Approved plans call for 15 apartments on the upper floors with the ground floor commercial uses to remain the same. BLDUP recently spoke with Adams Burns to discuss the conversion in more detail.

BLDUP: How did you identify the Franklin Street property and what makes it good for a conversion?

Adam Burns: Not every office building in Boston makes sense for conversion. The building geometry and size of the floor plate play a large role in viability. 281 Franklin Street was selected due to its compact floor plate and frontage on three sides allowing for maximal window penetrations for the residential units. When reviewing candidates for residential conversion we are also interested in balancing construction cost with acquisition cost. Part of the winning formula for a successful residential conversion is based on how much of the existing building infrastructure can be reused and the basis at which you can acquire those existing improvements. So in summary the building provided maximal efficiency for residential unit layout and due to strong investments and upkeep by the former owner, much of the building can be reused in its next life as apartments.

BLDUP: What will the build-out look like, are you maintaining some historic charm, what sort of construction costs are you expecting?

Adam Burns: We are creating a handicap-accessible entry and lobby but other than that we are leaving the historic facade wholly untouched to respect the beautiful architecture. Our renovation will be concentrated on the interior of floors 2 thru 6 while maintaining the ground floor retail and we are estimating our costs to amount to approximately $150 per square foot.

BLDUP: Your project is one of the first developments utilizing Boston’s New Downtown Residential Conversion Incentive program, how has the process been working with the City?

Adam Burns: 281 Franklin Street is the first project to be approved through the Downtown Residential Conversion Incentive Pilot Program. In addition to the tax incentives associated with the program, there is a promise of an expedited permitting process. I can say with confidence that Mayor Wu and the BPDA followed through on their promise of expedited permitting and that is due in large part to John Weil who was hired as the Senior Program Manager for Downtown Conversions. As far as I know, this has been the fastest Article 80 process completed in the city. Our application was submitted on December 19th, 2023 and now just 3 months later we are completing our process with the BPDA. I think that there are some great lessons learned from this process that can improve the permitting process as a whole and streamline housing creation in the City of Boston. 

BLDUP: You recently closed on the acquisition of the building and financing, what are the next steps in the process and the timeline?

Adam Burns: After winning BPDA board approval on March 14th our plans are back to ISD for review and approval of the building permit. At present, we anticipate permit issuance in May of this year and we hope to be delivering completed units by next summer!

To hear more from Adam Burns, join him at the upcoming Bisnow Event, Boston Construction & Development, on March 20th. 

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