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Millennium to plug hole

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The ugly hole in the ground at Downtown Crossing is finally going to be filled, according to stories in the Boston newspapers.

Millennium Partners will take control of the former Filene’s property on Washington Street and build a tower with retail stores, some office space, and residences. Vornado Realty Trust, the New York developer that originally bought the site, tore down Filene’s, and then halted construction in 2008 after encountering financing problems, will still be involved in the project.

The Herald, which buried its story inside the paper, says Millennium and Vornado have a 50-50 deal. The Globe, which led its paper with the story, reports that Millennium bought out the project’s minority investors and Vornado will be a passive investor going forward. Terms of the deal were not disclosed; both papers based their stories on leaks from the administration of Boston Mayor Thomas Menino.

A new tower at the site would end a nightmare for the mayor, who embraced Vornado’s revitalization of Downtown Crossing and then was left with an embarrassing eyesore when Vornado said it couldn’t finish the project. An angry Menino orchestrated the revocation of Vornado’s building permits and more recently threatened to stall a casino at Suffolk Downs, where Vornada is a minority investor, unless something was done about the hole at Downtown Crossing.

The new tower will be designed by New York architect Gary Handel, who drafted plans for Millennium’s Hayward Place building further down Washington Street. Millennium also owns the Ritz Carlton Hotel and Towers in the area. The Globe says a revised development plan will be ready within 60 days and construction will start within a year. A formal press conference to announce the project is scheduled for this morning.

                                                                                                                                    --BRUCE MOHL


BEACON HILL

A CommonWealth poll indicates Lt. Gov. Tim Murray, despite all his well-publicized problems, is still not well known by Massachusetts residents. Peter Lucas, in his Lowell Sun column, says Gov. Patrick has Murray’s back, but for how long?

State Rep. David Torrisi says he plans to file legislation giving the state overseer in Lawrence the power to fire city employees. Two city employees are collecting paychecks while doing no work, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

Middlesex Community College President Carole Cowan slams Gov. Patrick’s plan to centralize control of community colleges, warning it will create mediocrity, the Lowell Sun reports.

Rep. Paul Adams, a freshman Republican, says he plans to challenge Sen. Barry Finegold, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

WBUR’s Radio Boston explores the funding model for the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway Conservancy.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

A threatening email sent to Lawrence Mayor William Lantigua forces a City Hall evacuation, NECN reports.

Revere Police Chief Terence Reardon resigns under pressure from the mayor, the Lynn Item reports.

Organizers called off a planned Bicentennial Queen Pageant as part of Fairhaven’s upcoming 200th birthday celebration because of lack of interest and are worried the apathy could extend to the entire celebration and cast a pall over it.

Easton officials voted against joining the state Group Insurance Commission, saying the savings would be minimal and could be equaled through negotiations, while nearby Raynham selectmen voted unanimously to take the first step toward adopting the state plan.

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

Susan G. Komen for the Cure’s founder defends the organization’s decision to stop awarding grants to Planned Parenthood, the Los Angeles Times reports. Mother Jones reports that a $7.5 million Komen grant to Penn State appears to violate its new policy. The backlash continues against Komen. Not everywhere, though: The National Review awards a “pink ribbon” to the  foundation for severing ties with Planned Parenthood.

ELECTION 2012

Some political observers say The Donald’s imprimatur on Mitt Romney is meaningless because the self-promoting billionaire is merely a political sideshow. NECN has The Donald’s endorsement of Romney. The New York Times marvels at the spectacle.

Romney is facing a new flip-flopping charge related to his criticism of an Obama administration ruling that all health plans, even those covering workers at Catholic hospitals, must cover birth control. Meanwhile, Michael Gerson writing in The Washington Post gives a succinct rundown of Mitt’s strengths and weaknesses. Paul Krugman chews over Romney’s degree of concern toward the poor.

US Sen. Scott Brown has paid his vocalist daughter, Ayla, and her band from his campaign account for appearances at three events.  

During the 2010 special election, Scott Brown vowed to be the 41st vote against President Obama, but two years later he has found a lot to love about the Democratic president and his agenda, the Lowell Sun reports (via AP).

Meanwhile, the Senate overwhelmingly passed a measure Brown is spearheading that would ban members of Congress from trading on insider stock information they are privy to through their official duties.

US Rep. William Keating raised nearly $500,000 in campaign contributions last year.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Nationwide unemployment falls for the fifth straight month to 8.3 percent in December.

Consumer confidence in Massachusetts grows, writes MassINC Polling Group’s Steve Koczela in CommonWealth.

The financial collapse of Chicago’s venerable Hull House, the 123-year-old social institution that was a model many nonprofits follow still, is sending shockwaves through the charity community around the country about their own vulnerabilities in the continuing down economy, the Chronicle of Philanthropy reports.

The SEC treats big banks with kid gloves.

EDUCATION

A $15 million upgrade is on tap for the New England Aquarium, the Globe reports.

UMass Lowell and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel sign a memoradum of understanding calling for collaboration between the two schools, the Lowell Sun reports.

The Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in North Adams will allow its police officers to carry guns likely beginning sometime later this year.

Boston Schools Superintendent Carol Johnson talks to WBUR about her new budget proposal, which includes an increase in spending and an extended day at two schools.

Springfield begins its search for a new school superintendent.

HEALTH CARE

UMass Memorial Health Care Inc. was slapped with more than $800,000 in fines and penalties for a blood-testing scam tied to its bone marrow registry, the Worcester Telegram reports.

Paul Levy links to a New England Journal of Medicine article (subscription required) that lays out the necessary conditions for a global payment system to be successful.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

The Obama administration is moving forward with plans to lease four areas off the coast of Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, and Virginia for wind power projects, USA Today reports.

The Sierra Club took more than $25 million from natural gas companies over a three-year period, but then abruptly canceled the relationship in 2010, Time reports.

Count Keller@Large among the masses who don’t miss the cold and snow this winter, though no mention of global warming.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

The former manager of a branch of Hingham Federal Credit Union pleaded guilty to stealing more than $100,000 from the bank but avoided jail time by the plea and was ordered to pay back $35,000, the amount not covered by insurance.

MEDIA

AOL and the Huffington Post are jumping into live video in a big way, the New York Times reports.

The New York Times Co.’s fourth quarter earnings reveal that the Globe’s new paid website, BostonGlobe.com, has attracted just 16,000 subscribers. Ad revenues at the Times and the Globe slide, and the Times Co. ends the year $40 million in the red.

CHEW ON THIS, SPORTS FANS

Why Eli Manning is a better leader than Tom Brady. No worries, the Patriot’s QB gets equal time here.

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