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Filene's Basement to shut flagship till '09

Firm failed to find a temporary site

Filene's Basement said it will preserve the store's famed automatic price markdowns when it reopens after the redevelopment project in Downtown Crossing is completed. (BILL GREENE/GLOBE STAFF/FILE 2005)

Filene's Basement, the landmark Boston merchant, has failed to find a temporary location in Downtown Crossing and will close its flagship store for nearly two years to make way for a massive redevelopment project.

The merchant, however, allayed shoppers' fears by saying it will preserve the store's famed automatic price markdowns when it reopens in spring 2009.

The chain is shuttering the downtown location Aug. 31 to accommodate a major project to convert the former Filene's department store building into condominiums, a hotel, offices, and retail space. Construction is expected to begin this fall.

"After an exhaustive search, Filene's Basement was unable to identify a temporary location that was large enough to accommodate their existing operations," the company said yesterday in a statement.

Mayor Thomas M. Menino yesterday criticized the retailer, saying Filene's Basement "could have found a location in the city if they really wanted to continue the business."

Boston officials tried to broker a deal for Filene's Basement, which employs about 220 union workers, to move into the vacant Barnes & Noble building in Downtown Crossing. Menino also said the city looked into finding space in a hotel near the convention center in South Boston.

"They made a corporate decision. I'm very frustrated," Menino said. "We've been a good partner with Filene's Basement. They've been a landmark, and we could have worked much closer with them."

The company is expected to receive $15 million to vacate its space while the developer renovates the building, said local officials who asked not to be identified because the deal is not public.

Jenn Abelson can be reached at