Downtown Crossing is not just a sociocultural melting pot; it’s the heartbeat of Boston – The Hub of Boston.

However, due to recent residential real estate developments and an influx of bars and restaurants, Downtown Crossing is currently transitioning from a bustling city-epicenter to a residential destination for a diverse clientele, one that includes empty-nesters, young professionals and post-graduate students with two things in common: the desire for a central location and enough money to live there.

Rosemarie Sansone, president of the Downtown Boston Business Improvement District, says DTC visitors and residents can “physically see the change on the street,” just by walking on the sidewalk. This change, perpetual and multifaceted, is most apparent in DTX’s residential real estate market, which the BID showcased over the weekend.

On Saturday, May 10, the BID hosted its annual Downtown: Home Where the Heart Is tour, which sees “residents of the neighborhood open their homes and hearts to the public from across the city, the commonwealth and beyond,” Sansone said in a statement.

For four hours Saturday afternoon, interested buyers, area-workers and everyday Bostonians were allowed to take a self-guided tour of nine “prime” downtown residential properties. The event has been offered since 2008, but Sansone told BostInno over the phone “this year was the most exciting, most successful event” in its short history. While Sansone wasn’t able to nail down an exact headcount, the wide age range of attendees – college students to grandparents – and a considerable “international influence” confirmed that downtown Boston units are attracting a diverse crop of prospective – maybe hopeful – tenants.

For the price of $25, attendees got a chance to see popular, residential digs – 45 Province, The Kensington (see: above), Winter Place, Residences (formerly Locke-Ober), Hamilton Crossing, and Millennium Place.

Though Sansone admits her favorite residential building – she “couldn’t believe how the space has transformed”– is Winter Place, one $220 million, 15-story luxury residential complex stands in a class of its own.

Millennium Place, which caters to late-20 or early-30-something professionals and a bevy of empty-nesters, had its units sell out so quickly that Sansone dubbed it “the fastest, most-remarkable sales generator for a [downtown] condo development ever” – an expensive sales generator at that, offering up $700,000 to $3.5 million condos.

The Millennium Club, inside Millennium Place

Competing with the grandeur of Millennium Place, just a few hundred feet down the road, is The Kensington. Geared towards 21st Century, innovative, green living, The Kensington offers more than 380 residential apartments, sought by a variety of post-grad students and young professionals, who take kindly to collaborative spaces.

It’s juxtapositions like this – Millennium Place’s luxury versus The Kensington ‘s contemporary, trendy design – that makes downtown equal parts attraction and residential destination.

And just wait until the Millennium Tower is completed, atop the renovated Burnham building in 2016. Slated to become Boston’s tallest residential skyscraper, Millennium Tower “will certainly be the main attraction in terms of visual sight,” Sansone said.

But the real story – what’s really newsworthy – downtown, is taking place inside residential units, at street-level and below ground.

Take the MBTA’s Downtown Crossing Station for instance – when was the last time you saw that place without steel barriers or blue tarps surrounding an entrance? Though the T’s busiest station may be an eyesore, it plays a vital role in what Sansone and the BID envision the area becoming.

“The below ground experience is our brand,” Sansone said. In order for DTX residents to enjoy the privileges that come with occupying one of the fresh downtown dwellings they’re paying for, they need to have a way to get around. And without efficient transportation and up-to-date stations, DTX comes to a standstill.

Located directly in the center of Boston, Downtown Crossing Station serves nearly 24,000 people during an average weekday, making it the second busiest in the system – South Station is the busiest.

The Red, Orange and Silver Lines all funnel into the station, and it offers easy access to Green or Blue Lines, both just a stop away.

What does this mean? That DTX’s residential boom is the result of a transit-oriented development plan. People, for one reason or another – shopping, dining, nightlife, work or school – head downtown. But now, they’re staying rather than passing through.

In order to accommodate the constant foot traffic and create a more welcoming, customer friendly DTX Station, the BID “is working very closely with the MBTA and the City of Boston,” Sansone said. And as of now, let’s just say all parties are very, very optimistic about the station’s future. So much so, in fact, the BID is currently working with Brandeis University students on a design plan that would completely revitalize DTX Station, by adding a brand new concourse and addressing its various “physical needs.”

Here are some screenshots from a DTX Station powerpoint presentation:

This could help explain why the BID’s home tour last weekend drew such a diverse crowd, which included 22-to-65 year olds.

With Suffolk and Emerson Colleges, financial offices, restaurants, shops and theaters, downtown Boston has enough so that one doesn’t need to go anywhere else, and it’s central enough that one can come and go as he or she pleases.

Sansone, who has watched DTX evolve “since the 60s,” when she first took a job at Filene’s, said the area has cleaned up dramatically over the years. “I’ve been watching this area my whole life,” she said. Her hope going forward is to see DTX fully become the place where people choose to “live, work and play.”

Downtown’s transformation hasn’t been completed; Millennium Tower still needs to go up, Roche Bros. still needs to open and no timetable has been established for large-scale DTX Station renovations. But a wealthy, fresh crop of residents is spearheading the change.

“[Downtown Boston] has all the conveniences of a place people want to live,” said Sansone, who repeatedly touted the value of a new Roche Brothers, which will become the grocery store chain’s first downtown location when it opens its doors mid-2015.

Those words are music to a developer’s ears; and something that every interested renter or buyer gets exited about – but dreads might not be financially doable. So an affluent, albeit, variable demographic is flocking downtown, with intentions of staying for a while.


Images courtesy of the MBTA and BID