Shoring up Atlantic Wharf

Shoring up Atlantic Wharf

Atlantic Wharf, with its stunning 31-story glass tower on Congress Street opposite the Federal Reserve building, is nearing completion – and a sneak peek inside reveals that it’s been worth the wait.

The $500 million office and residential complex offers 550,000 square feet of waterfront space. Floor-to-ceiling windows throughout the mixed-use project offer sweeping views of Boston Harbor, Logan International Airport, the Blue Hills and the downtown skyline.

The lobby features white granite floors, while the upper levels boast chocolate granite on the walls – both from Carrara, the Tuscan city known for its marble quarries.

The complex, which is scheduled to open early next year, is massive and the new glass tower is flanked by restored buildings at street level.

A historical building on Fort Point Channel offers 200,000 square feet of offices, while another renovated seven-story building facing Atlantic Avenue and the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway will offer 86 loft-style apartments that will cost $425 per square foot.

“This will be a great addition to the city,” said Michael Cantalupa, senior vice president of development at Boston Properties. “We’re very optimistic that Atlantic Wharf will add life to the waterfront. It won’t be nine-to-five anymore.”

When completed early next year, the mixed-use complex formerly known as Russia Wharf, will be the headquarters for Wellington Management Co., which leased 450,000 square feet of space. Communispace – a Watertown company that creates online communities for its corporate customers – will take 80,000 square feet. Payette, a Boston architectural firm, has signed a 10-year deal for 40,000 square feet. Wilmington Trust, one of the largest U.S. providers of personal trusts, will take 15,000 square feet of offices.

In February, the Boston Society of Architects signed a letter of intent with Boston Properties for two floors at below-market rent. Under the agreement, the BSA would take 31,700 square feet of space.

Filling most of the space before it opens has been a major accomplishment, given that the downtown office market has been in freefall for more than a year. Millions of square feet of office space are available at low prices. Jones Lang LaSalle reports the citywide vacancy rate was nearly 18 percent for Class A space at the close of the third quarter, with average rents in the upper $40s.

James Collins, president at Payette, said he signed the deal to move to the low-rise portion of Atlantic Wharf because it allows them to put their seven floors of offices, currently in an old wharf building on Summer Street, on one floor at Atlantic Wharf.

“We’ve always fantasized of leasing a space where we could put the whole company on one floor, because we are a highly collaborative group, and Atlantic Wharf made that possible,” he said. “There were other choices, but the idea that the space is more like a workshop with concrete floors in a loft building was very appealing.”

Collins won’t say how much he is paying for rent, but brokers say the deal is in the low $30s per square foot. The rents in the tower are higher, in the $40s and $50s, brokers say, but Wellington Management is probably paying more because they signed the deal before the market tanked.

None of the 23,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space has been leased, but Cantalupa said he is not worried. He said he plans to fill the space with as many as five sitdown or fast casual restaurants.

“If we end up signing the leases with everythng we have under letter of intent, we will open with the retail almost completely leased,” he said. “Where else in the city can you have lunch or dinner on the water?”

By Thomas Grillo

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