Three sites, 250-acres and, if developed correctly, the chance to recreate three very different neighborhoods of the city. All three of these sites have been discussed for some time by state, city and neighborhood officials but only recently have become increasingly active and all moving aggressively towards development.
Beacon Yards- Allston- 60 Acres
Starting geographically from West to East, the first project is the Beacon Yards project. This 60 acre site was formerly owned by the CSX Railroad corporation and, only recently, was sold to Harvard University in hopes of spurring future neighborhood development (whether that was the best move for the neighborhood remains to be seen but based on Harvard's work with Barry's Corner we can only hope they continue to build for the benefit of the surrounding neighborhood and not another isolated HBS campus). Currently, as the site stands, it is split down the middle by the Allston/ Brighton tolls of the Massachusetts Turnpike. To kill two birds with one stone, MassDOT hopes to straighten out this section of the Pike, alleviating traffic in a heavily traveled section of the roadway while also opening up the site to it's full development potential.
The plan is to build a mix of retail, office and residential to help create a new neighborhood in a section of Allston long devoid of much life. Boston Society of Architects has created an all volunteer group of local designers and community members to help push their visions of what the site could look like. One such design, and my current favorite, envisions creating an "Allston Esplanade" which would require moving Storrow Drive away from the water and creating 3-acres of open space, parkland, bike lanes and running paths along the water in a section of the Charles that desperately needs it. The project also brings back into play the long discussed "West Station" creating a public transit option directly to downtown and Kendall Square in Cambridge (Major transportation announcement coming from Governor Deval Patrick tomorrow directly effecting this project).
Municipal Harbor Planning Project- Downtown/ Waterfront- 100 Acres (much of which already developed)
Heading further east, to the Boston Waterfront, The Municipal Harbor Planning Project is an ongoing discussion on the future of Boston's Waterfront, an area that, until the removal of Boston's other "green monster," was a blighted area unvisited by residents and tourists alike along Boston's Waterfront. Today it sits up against a glistening gem of a project in the Rose Kennedy Greenway that has reclaimed open space for the cities residents and created enormous opportunity for Boston's Waterfront. While much of the attention in this area is on the nearly 20 year attempt by developer Don Chiofaro to develop the site of the current Boston Harbor Parking Garage, city and state officials are looking at how to revitalize the entire waterfront area.
The Chiofaro Company has proposed two towers, one containing nearly 900,000sf of offices the other containing 120 condo units and a luxury hotel operator. Both towers will be connected by a large scale ground level retail/ entertainment complex which has been a major focus of public input on the project and continues to be a focal point of debate. Because this project is within 300' of a public water way it falls within State Department of Environmental Protection review and is still winding it's way through Chapter 91 review while awaiting Boston Redevelopment Authority Article 80 review. For more information on this project please visit the project website.
Recently the owners of the James Hook site have stated publicly their intentions to redevelop their site and are looking to present their plans for the property to the MHPC this fall.
Suffolk Downs Site- East Boston/ Revere- 160 Acres
The recent casino debate in Eastern Massachusetts pitted East Boston residents against eachother and Revere against Everett for the right to build Eastern Massachusetts only full casino. Everett won out (subject to a repeal vote in November) leaving Suffolk Downs at the end of it's nearly 100 year history announcing that it will be closing the race track at the end of the year. Now, 160 acres of "transit-oriented" land is going to become wide open and ripe for development. How it's used and where we go with it next are still open for initial discussions and debate but most agree that this parcel could have a tremendous effect on East Boston, Revere and other surrounding suburbs.
The traditional fears of overcrowding, traffic congestion and overdevelopment are, of course, at play here but the greater concern should be on how we can take such a massive parcel of open urban land and create a new neighborhood focused on the future of Boston. East Boston Native and leader of the Eastie 2020 movement, former Secretary of Transportation Jim Aloisi said it best in a recent Globe Special on Suffolk Downs Future;
It also offers a rare opportunity to create a vibrant multi-use neighborhood, knit the surrounding communities together, and generate much-needed jobs and upward mobility.
Boston is an incredibly innovative, young and vibrant city and has become a place of endless opportunity to "do what you love and love what you do." However, with the attractiveness of Boston has come higher real estate prices and an increasingly difficult environment for young Bostonians to put down roots. Boston is at the crux of a major change whether we like it or not. We need to plan these new developments to house the Bostonians of the future. To allow people the ability to afford to live in a welcoming, vibrant and exciting city. A place where everyone has the opportunity to succeed through hard work and perseverance and to continue to create companies and products that change not only Boston, but the entire world for the better.
BuildingBOS was created to be the partner and connection between developers and the cities and towns that make up Greater Boston. We work to ensure that each new development and each new property investment is done in a way that guarantees, not only the success of the individual property or business owner but also benefits the neighborhood and the region as a whole. After all, every project and every parcel of land does not exist in a bubble but works as part of a symbiotic relationship with the surrounding block, neighborhood, city and region to create the best possible quality of life for all residents and the best opportunity for it's residents to succeed in whatever they want to do.
Starting a dialogue on the future of urban living in Boston and beyond.