If these walls could talk: As relevant as ever

Boston’s Exchange Place has maintained its role as part of the city’s fabric despite its multiple institutional ownerships.

The Boston Stock Exchange building at 53 State Street changed hands again in December. It was acquired by German insurer Allianz, Massachusetts Pension Reserves Investment Management Board and Boston real estate investment firm Beacon Capital Partners from Swiss bank UBS, in a deal valuing the icon at $845 million.

That sticker price is naturally a far cry from its initial cost back in 1889; designed by local architect Peabody & Stearns, Exchange Place was built for $4 million. Its original purpose was to serve as the headquarters for the Boston Board of Trade, the city’s central hub for commerce. It later became accommodation for the city’s stock exchange. The building is now occupied by The Boston Globe newspaper, maintaining its local relevance.

None of these goings-on have detracted from its signature features, including a main entrance guarded by elaborate bronze lanterns and basement windows festooned in classical cast-iron moldings. A Boston Landmarks Commission report in 1975 characterized the 11-story building’s style as a “fusion of the Romanesque Revival and Italianate palazzo tradition.”

Exchange Place: taken by Bill Horsman

A trading place

In 1973, Old State Trust purchased Exchange Place and all the other buildings on its block from the State Street Bank, which remained a tenant, according to a Massachusetts Institute of Technology thesis published in 1982. Albert Edelman, a founding partner of banking and real estate finance law firm Javits Trubin Sillcock & Edelman, and Boston developer Harold Theran, were listed as the beneficiaries of the Old State Trust in January 1973. This was the earliest Exchange Place ownership record available in the Massachusetts Land Records.

In 1978, Canadian developer Olympia and York began planning and developing Exchange Place with the approval of Edelman, Theran and Boston’s mayor Kevin White, according to the thesis.

However, a group of preservationists opposed the project, arguing that the original Exchange Place held enough architectural and commercial history to be designated as a landmark, the MIT paper noted.

After much debate, Olympia and York, with the help of Toronto-based WZMH Architects, came to a compromise that meshed the vision of a 40-floor office tower with the ‘L’ portion of the 1889 Exchange Place building. In 1980, the Boston Landmarks Commission designated the preserved ‘L’ portion of the site as a landmark. The result of the development project completed in 1984 is a late 19th century granite building wrapped around a glass skyscraper.

A fine institution

In 2006, the property entered into top-tier institutional possession as Brookfield Properties took full ownership of it and another office tower on State Street. The Toronto-based asset manager held the trophy asset for another three years before selling it, according to data provider Real Capital Analytics. In 2011, UBS Asset Management subsidiary UBS Realty Investors purchased Exchange Place for $610 million.

The building, firmly on the institutional radar now, has been acquired once again – this time for $235 million more, by a joint venture. MassPRIM took a 49 percent stake. German insurer Allianz and Boston real estate investment firm Beacon Capital Partners will share the other 51 percent.

With blue-chip tenants including consultancy Boston Consulting Group, lawyer Goodwin Procter and advertising agency Hill Holiday in occupation, and with rising prime values in gateway cities, it is easy to see why its price keeps escalating.

And with The Boston Globe having moved in during 2017, the property is set to remain very much a part of the city’s social fabric, just as it was in the beginning.