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Construction to begin on 28-story Back Bay tower

The Avalon Exeter project will create 187 apartments, plus retail space, in a building next to the Lenox Hotel. The Avalon Exeter project will create 187 apartments, plus retail space, in a building next to the Lenox Hotel. (Elkus Manfredi Architects)
By Casey Ross
Globe Staff / September 23, 2011

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AvalonBay Communities Inc. is expected to start construction today on a 28-story apartment building on Exeter Street in Boston’s Back Bay, filling in the last residential piece of the Prudential Center complex, which decades ago introduced high-rise development to the area.

The project, called Avalon Exeter, will feature 187 apartment units in a 242,000-square-foot glass-and-stone tower next to the Lenox Hotel. The building, designed by Elkus Manfredi Architects, will include a small ground-floor retail space. A tenant has not been selected.

The tower is part of a wave of apartment construction beginning to spread across the city, with developers seeking to meet a perceived demand for rental units as the office and home ownership markets remain sluggish.

An AvalonBay executive said the building will benefit from its proximity to public transit and parking, as well as the Back Bay’s shopping district.

“There is a real need for additional housing in Boston, and this is a really great address at Prudential Center,’’ said Michael Roberts, executive vice president. “Residents will have access to covered parking, a supermarket, retail stores and restaurants, and all the amenities of the Back Bay.’’

During negotiations with the city, AvalonBay agreed to expand the number of affordable units in three other apartment buildings in the Back Bay to 46 from 28, and to add another six affordable units in the Exeter Street tower.

Mayor Thomas M. Menino said the project will help to sustain the Back Bay’s “dynamic character as a place where residents, retailers, hoteliers, and tourists intersect.’’

Market-rate units will be available in a range of sizes and prices. Rents for the 32 studio apartments, with 500 square feet, will start at about $1,800 per month; 52 one-bedrooms, with 800 square feet, will begin at $2,500; and 83 two-bedrooms, with about 1,350 square feet, will go for $3,500 and up.

The building will have 20 penthouses on its top two floors, with prices yet to be determined. Residents will have access to 131 parking spaces in the Prudential Center garage.

Casey Ross can be reached at cross@globe.com.