Friday, January 27, 2012

Vacant downtown land set for development

The city and state want to redevelop a huge area of unused land leftover after the Big Dig was completed. During the project, the land had been upturned to allow for construction of the tunnel beneath the surface. The area, owned by the state and located just south of Chinatown and the Leather District, is bound by I-90, I-93, Albany Street, and Kneeland Street and covers about 20 acres. 

It poses a huge opportunity for development as it is such a large, open space; something rarely found in Downtown Boston and especially next to one of its most densely populated neighborhoods. Not to mention, the area is also surrounded by several hubs of mass transit, being a 5 minute walk from South Station and other public transportation stations, in addition to being located at the intersection of I-93 and the Mass Pike. According to the Globe, officials envision the area to become an iconic new south entrance to the city for commuters driving through on the interstate, abutted by modernly designed high-rise buildings. The goal is to integrate up to 1,500 housing units, several outdoor parks, recreation facilities, and space for retailers and restaurants. Attempts to attract developers in the past have failed, so this time the city has decided to start from square one and focus on smaller areas at a time, designating five separate parcels. 

Aerial View of Parcel 25
MassDOT recently began the process of accepting proposals for Parcel 25, highlighted in white in the image above. The parcel covers 1.7 acres of land, with some open space that runs over the highway. Included in the terms of the proposal are the air rights to the parcel as well, which will allow developers to build over the highway. This poses many issues though and can tend to be very expensive, which could deter some companies who would otherwise be interested. 

The department decided to try something new with this project by requiring the proposals to include opportunities for women and/or minority business owners. This requirement will be part of the criteria to judge each proposal. MassDOT will be accepting proposals through March 7.

Already set for development in the Spring is Parcel 24, sitting right across the street from Parcel 25, and bound by Kneeland, Hudson, and Albany Streets. In the past this area used to be a bustling and vibrant residential neighborhood, home to many Chinese, Syrian, and Lebanese immigrants before 300 of its residents were displaced by the construction of the Central Artery in the 1960s. This project hopes to restore the area to its original glory by constructing a six story north building and a ten story south building, providing 345 residential housing units, including condos and rentals, 42% of which will be affordable and reserved for low income families. Also included in the project will be 13,600 square feet of green space, a parking garage with 125 spaces, and 5,500 square feet of ground floor retail. 700 construction jobs and 24 permanent jobs are expected to be created.

In October, Governor Patrick and Mayor Menino announced that the city and state would provide money for the $130 million development, using funding from a $64.5 million federal aid package. Asian Community Development Corporation will be footing the rest of the bill and is the one responsible for the project. ACDC is a nonprofit, community based organization founded in 1987 and is responsible for other developments like Oak Terrace and the Metropolitan tower. They hope that this project will help revitalize Chinatown. Construction is expected to be finished by 2014.

At the moment the other parcels are not up for bidding, and it will be several years before they are even open to do so. It will take a long time before this "southern gateway" is complete, but Bostonians will be able to look forward to a larger skyline on their way into the city in the future. 

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