Major developer buys prime Back Bay office site from John Hancock

A long-planned office project in the Back Bay could move forward soon now that a local development firm is buying the site from John Hancock.

Skanska USA said Friday that it has purchased 380 Stuart Street from John Hancock, which in 2015 proposed and received city permits for a 27-story office tower on the site. there in 2015. The insurance giant never launched construction, but Skanska — an arm of the Swedish construction giant by the same name — has built and sold three office buildings in the Seaport District in recent years, and now plans to move forward with another one on Stuart Street.

“Back Bay is an ideal location to bring a new, modern, and flexible office building to the community,” said Russell DeMartino, who leads Skanska’s commercial development here. “As Skanska expands its footprint in the Greater Boston area, our belief in the city continues to grow, and we look forward to making this new development the ideal choice for employers and employees.”

The developer paid $177 million for the 0.7-acre site, which is around the corner from Back Bay Station in the heart of the neighborhood’s high-rise district.

Skanska is planning “design tweaks” to the 625,000-square-foot tower — designed for John Hancock by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and CBT Architects — to make it more suitable for multiple tenants, instead of a single user, and to make room for state-of-the-art systems and technology. Major changes to the plan may require city approval and could trigger a new round of neighborhood review. It was not clear if Skanska plans to start work “on spec” — without tenants lined up — or wait to sign leases first. Boston office developers generally prefer to sign tenants before launching office towers, though the firm — which is one of the world’s largest construction companies and builds its projects in-house — started its Seaport District projects without tenants and successfully leased them. But that was before COVID-19, which has drastically lessened demand for office space in downtown Boston.

Either way, the tower apparently won’t be filled by John Hancock, which initially planned the project for its own use as an expansion of its longtime home in the Back Bay. The firm, the US arm of Canadian insurance giant Manulife Financial Corp., is also still trying to sell its former headquarters building at 601 Congress St. in the Seaport.

Tim Logan can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @bytimlogan.

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