Development around 5 Commercial Centers in Eastie – Maverick Square, Orient Heights and Everything in Between

Like many areas of the city, the scale of development taking place in East Boston is something to behold. According to the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA), there are 38 developments that are currently under review, board approved, permitted or under construction in Eastie. Among these 38 developments, 36 contain a residential and/or retail component which fall directly into our realm of expertise and align with the trends in development city-wide. These developments will ultimately generate over 12,314 residential units. It is important to note that the numbers are driven higher by the generational redevelopment of the former thoroughbred race track, Suffolk Downs. The project will include approximately 16,000,000 SF of new development with 10,000 residential units. While the overall square footage numbers shrink when taking this one project out of the equation, one figure still remains large: the number of projects that are in the BPDA pipeline.

(Aerial from CNVRG graphics)

Development of this scale has been a long time coming in East Boston. It’s no secret that the views and access to water are premier in this area of the city. As other neighborhoods have boomed in recent years with the expansion of residential and commercial space, the economics of developing in Eastie finally came into focus in the early 2010’s. Whereas rents used to hover closer to $1 to $2 per square foot in the early 2000’s, they are now stretching toward $5 per square foot for the premier properties. On the sales side, once unimaginable pricing of $1,000 per square foot for condominiums is now firmly precedented at the newest condo projects (namely, Clippership Wharf).    

The unique (waterfront) geography of Eastie makes it a less walkable neighborhood than many of the Boston neighborhoods. Residents find themselves needing to be more reliant on public transportation to access the downtown area of the city. Developers have gravitated to the strong transit infrastructure in East Boston in recent years plus a rather vast land canvas to work off. There are at least five commercial centers in Eastie including Maverick Square, Central Square, Day Square, Orient Heights and Eagle Hill that make it convenient for residents to access services and community. 

Portside at East Pier, Clippership Wharf, The Mark, The Eddy, Portside and Boston East are among the large scale developments that have appeared on the waterfront in recent years. These five developments alone include 1,339 residential units and 1,435,751 of total SF. Calling attention to these large developments highlights the fact that there is significant sizing variation among the 38 developments currently in BPDA. Projects that fall within a range of 20,000-50,000 total SF make up the bulk of developments in the pipeline, however there is no shortage of large scale projects as well.

(Rendering of Clippership Wharf)

Although the future of development in East Boston looks substantial, a project being approved by the BPDA does not guarantee that it will deliver. Financing failures, community pushback and macro economic shifts are some of the many roadblocks that developers face. Eastie is still in the middle innings of its renaissance. We’ll be watching it and hope you will be too. Let us know if we can offer guidance in this alluring development landscape.  

What’s on the Horizon in Southie? A Closer Look From Andrew Square to Broadway

Over the past decade or so, South Boston has rather quickly transformed from a dichotomous residential and industrial section of Boston into a dynamic neighborhood with scores of ground up developments and mixed-use activity. Excluding the Seaport (formerly, South Boston Waterfront), the BPDA has accounted for at least 35 completed developments in South Boston since 2009. Many of these finished projects have been on West Broadway and First Street, while others are scattered throughout the neighborhood. As of the fall of 2019, there are at least 38 additional projects that are either under review, under construction, permitted, board approved, or have submitted an LOI with the BPDA. This break-neck scale of development has been equally impressive and scary for long time residents who may not readily embrace the change.

(A 120,164 SF condo project, 14 West Broadway has been one of the larger Southie developments in recent years)

Among the various  development corridors spread throughout the neighborhood, Dorchester Avenue promises to be an area that’s worth paying particularly close attention to. Although there are only four developments on Dorchester Ave that are currently in the BPDA’s pipeline, this streetscape is likely to change drastically within the next decade plus. 

Launched in 2015, the South Boston Dorchester Avenue Planning Initiative will oversee the redevelopment of this transit centric land by 2030. The result of this will be an entirely different landscape between the Broadway and Andrew train stations. These plans do not account for land that spills outside of the boundaries shown in figure 3, however the majority of the plans in the initiative will fall within this territory.

(Image taken from “South Boston Plan”)

From the end of West Fourth Street to the Andrew MBTA station, Dorchester Ave is packed with industrial lots, storage facilities and a variety of other non-residential occupants. National Development, one of New England’s largest developers out of Newton, has acquired 285, 345 and 363-365 Dorchester Ave, with plans to redevelop over 10 acres of land into a massive mixed-use site. Core Investments is another large owner in this strip, accounting for 656,449 SF of land from 371-511 Dorchester Ave. Although successfully delivering a large scale development is contingent on many factors, the projects that fall within this strip may have relative ease considering the fact that they’re being promoted by Mayor Walsh through the South Boston plan. This is not to say that the process will be seamless, however, an endorsement from the city’s top politician has traditionally counted for a lot.  

(Area of development set in South Boston PLAN)

Much like any development zone, the evolution of “Dot Ave” will take time. There’s little dispute, though, that it’s a matter of “when” not “if” this sliver of the South Boston map will repurpose a substantial section of one of Boston’s larger neighborhoods. 

The Rise of Revere

The landmark sites, beachfront and city governance of Revere may look entirely different in the coming years. Revere is in the process of drafting a master plan for the city that will establish and prioritize the guidelines and initiatives for major redevelopment sites around the city.  Further underscoring this intense period of change in the city is the upcoming mayoral election between incumbent Brian Arrigo and his opponent from 2015, Dan Rizzo, who is running again in 2019. Although 34 candidates submitted nomination papers for the November election, the spotlight will be on Arrigo and Rizzo. The winner will ultimately determine the outcome of the development initiatives laid out by Arrigo since he took office in 2016. 

(Brian Arrigo discussing the formation of a commission to evaluate the impact Encore Casino will have on Revere)

Throughout his time in office, Mayor Arrigo has made it quite clear that he is an advocate for real estate development in Revere. It is a common occurrence for the mayor to go out of his way to refer to future projects when discussing topics that are not necessarily related to development. This was exemplified in a recent statement relative to traffic in Revere. “We are optimistic that future development at Wonderland and at the nearby Necco site on American Legion Highway will advance the argument for this proposal,” said Arrigo on August 30th. The proposal Arrigo is commenting on is one of many initiatives that would help erase the congestion in Revere. 

On the other hand, candidate Rizzo, who is currently a city councilor at large, has not been shy about showing his disdain for Arrigo’s prioritization of development. Rizzo has voiced his disapproval of both current and future developments in Revere via Twitter and public statements.

(Dan Rizzo Twitter Post From July 8th, 2019)

Should he be re-elected, Mayor Arrigo’s vision for Revere’s future will be largely oriented around the redevelopment of scalable functionally obsolete sites. Capitalizing on the in-place public transportation infrastructure will play a vital role in building out the prospective development projects within the city. 

The Wonderland and Revere Beach MBTA stops serve as the go-to transit lines for many North Shore commuters. The city’s growth will benefit from these optimally located MBTA stops. Large projects such as the residential developments at Waterfront Square as well as the currently unused Wonderland Greyhound Track would bring significant new tax dollars and construction jobs to Revere. The theme outlined and implied by Arrigo’s administration is “revitalization”  as a tool for economic development.

(Wonderland MBTA Station)

Discussed further below, projects such as The Creative District will be one of the developments to embody this idea of revitalization. Falling into what the City of Revere categorizes as a “District,” the Creative District is just one of many projects that will play a role in the 21st century build out of Revere. 

Every project and initiative is designated to one of three categories: Master Planned Sites, Districts and Key Vacant Sites. 

 

The Master Planned Sites 

These refer to projects that are expected to take many years to develop and are of substantial magnitude. Included in these are Suffolk Downs and Waterfront Square. A former horse racing venue, Suffolk Downs sits on 161 acres (51 in Revere) and is expected to take 15-20 years to deliver. Waterfront Square includes eight high-end buildings totaling 902 residential units located directly on Revere Beach and next to the Wonderland MBTA station. 

 

Districts

Shirley Ave, Broadway Business District and the Creative District account for the specific areas designated as Districts for future development. Assigned by the state as a Transformative Development Initiative, the Shirley Ave District is unique in that it has leveraged technical assistance and public/private financing. This entire district is within walking distance of the Revere Beach MBTA stop. Also located steps from the same stop, The Creative District is planned to revitalize Revere Beach by bringing in walk-up commercial businesses and recreation. 

(Rendering of Proposed Design For The Creative District)

Key Vacant Sites 

Key Vacant Sites are large parcels of land that are not only in valuable locations but also have substantial acreage. Among these sites are the former Necco headquarters, Wonderland Track and Caddy Farms, ultimately making up 118 acres of underutilized land. With these proposed developments considered, it is clear that the scale of potential development in Revere is monumental. 

 The notion of a renaissance in Revere is exciting. It’s a waterfront city of over 51,000 people that is a mere 6 miles north of Boston and directly connected by mass public transit. However, none of those core elements are new and change is inevitably difficult to enact. This latest evolution is contingent on the results of this November’s mayoral election. The plans discussed are substantial, but a political shift has the potential to derail them or endorse them. Stay tuned for more news on Revere in the years to come. Converge will be tracking it closely.

Life Time Living

Consumers long for convenience. The shorter the commute, the better. Whether it’s to work, a fitness center or a favorite restaurant, convenience is king. Life Time is a retailer who understands this concept and has made the decision to embody it. 

CNVRG’s partner, The Dartmouth Company, represents Life Time Athletic, Life Time Living and Life Time Work throughout the northeast. This has entailed past and future projects at notable Life Time locations including 85 Jay Street in Brooklyn, 1 Wall Street in Manhattan and 300 Boylston St in Chestnut Hill. Life Time is actively participating in the mixed-use revolution, integrating significant multi-family, residential and coworking facilities into their fitness clubs. 

(Construction at Life Time in Brooklyn)

Life Time is marketing three residential focused development projects that are expected to deliver within the next 3 years. Two of the projects, which are located in Green Valley, NV and Coral Gables, FL, are expected to be completed in 2020. The third development, which is in Dallas, TX, is expected to deliver in 2022. In recent years, Life Time has built itself into what could be considered an amenity for any neighborhood that it touches. The new projects will also include coworking space, ultimately allowing a resident to live, exercise and work within a Life Time Living campus. 

(Green Valley development floor plan)

Across the United States malls and shopping centers with big box retailers are evolving into living spaces and small communities. The predominantly fitness brand is capitalizing on real estate opportunities and trends in living and working habits. The delivery of the first two residential focused developments in 2020 will ultimately determine the success of this forward thinking initiative. Converge Ventures and The Dartmouth Company are proud to be affiliated with this forward thinking brand. 

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