Emerson College Plans to Renovate 171 Tremont St.

By Beth Treffeisen

After plans to convert the five-story building at 171 Tremont St. to a 13-story residential luxury condominium tower failed to come to fruition, the developers Panoramic Properties decided to sell the project site to Emerson College on Nov. 6 for $24 million.

Over the next nine to 12 months, Emerson College plans to do an interior renovation to the building that has not been occupied over the past several years, as office space. Renovations are expected to be completed by Fall 2018.

The building’s location sits between Emerson College’s campus that has buildings located on Boylston St. and on Washington St.

“It’s a natural fit,” said Margaret Ings the vice president for government and community relations at Emerson College. “It would almost be why wouldn’t you do it if given the opportunity?”

Located at the corner of Tremont and Avery Streets, the planned, luxury condominium-building dubbed the “skinny tower” was going to feature 12 units, each occupying an entire floor. The Boston Planning and Development Agency approved the project with the height of 175 feet in October 2016.

But, the final height came after a series of setbacks. In 2015 the original proposal was set to be a tall ‘glassy pencil’ tower as high as 355 feet tall and just 50 feet wide.

From the start, the Friends of the Public Garden had concerns over the long shadows it would cast across Tremont Street and onto the Boston Common and neighbors had concerns over additional traffic around the tiny lot.

After pairing down the size repeatedly to gain City approval, the developers landed on a 155-foot building, with 12 condos and no parking.

According to the Boston Globe, Panoramic Properties, which paid $16.4 million to buy the site in 2014, put the site on the market after learning that it would have been hard to turn a profit with a building this small in size.

Emerson College’s intermediate plan is to start bringing back the base tenants that were housed in the Little Building before it went under construction this past fall. Many of those tenants have been moved to short-term lease space on Summer Street.

“As of right now, there are no long term plans to develop this site,” said Ings. “Our focus right now is on the beautiful Little Building that is currently under wraps. It’s a monstrous project, and it is a great undertaking.”

The Little Building housed a lot of college amenities alongside housing students, including the main dining hall, the Cabaret a small performance and event space, and office space. The dining hall has since been moved to the Walker Building located at 120 Boylston St. The Little Building is scheduled to open in fall 2019.

“The Little Building is the focus of the development team at the moment,” said Ings. “Everyone is awaiting to see what it will look like once it’s completed. I think they will be amazed.”

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