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(NECN: Peter Howe, Boston) - With a brass band and cannons spewing confetti, developers of the Downtown Crossing site that's been called "the Filene's hole" for the last five years ceremonially marked the launch of the $630 million project Tuesday.
"All of the pieces are together, our lead tenants are together -- the construction is underway," said Christopher Jeffries, CEO of developer Millennium Partners.
The biggest new element confirmed Tuesday: The site will feature a 30,000-square-foot Roche Brothers supermarket at the corner of Summer and Washington Streets, inside what used to be Filene's Basement.
"If you haven't been to Roche Brothers yet, go see them -- they're the best," said Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino. "They're the best. They're not just a good supermarket, they're great for the community. They do so much for us."
It's the first full-line supermarket anywhere close to Downtown Crossing.
Rosemarie Sansone, president of the Downtown Boston Business Improvement District, predicted it will be a very popular amenity for the 160,000 people who come work every day inside the district and the 10,000 to 11,000 residents, who include many Suffolk University and Emerson College students.
"I think it's a super big deal. Demand has been incredible -- everyone knows we need a supermarket," Sansone said, noting that Roche Brothers will have a prime location at a heavily trafficked entrance to the MBTA Red, Orange, and Green Lines. Commuters "going home to the suburbs or wherever they live in the city of Boston, they're going to be able to stop off at Roche Brothers, get something for dinner or pick up those extra groceries they need, and do it so conveniently."
The project will include a new headquarters for advertising agency Arnold Worldwide in the original Burnham Building that housed Filene's, and a new 60-story tower at Franklin and Washington Streets with 450 apartments and condominiums. Millennium said it's planning to have it all built by mid-2015.
With videographer David Jacobs