Neighborhood Spotlight: Orient Heights, East Boston

How do neighborhoods blossom? Well, often a neighborhood’s rise (or renaissance) begins with competitive advantages in terms of being pedestrian friendly, offering services and restaurants and, perhaps most importantly these days, featuring transportation infrastructure. Orient Heights in East Boston checks all of these boxes. This East Boston neighborhood has scores of triple decker buildings that are likely to transition into condos in the coming years.  However, the larger opportunity for developers in this East Boston sub-neighborhood is the significant volume of underutilized, single (or two) story properties within 0.5 miles of the Orient Heights MBTA Blue Line Station. This particular station has low ridership statistics while offering access to Boston’s Financial District in well under 20 minutes. Moreover, Noyes Playground and Constitution Beach give the Orient Heights area even broader appeal for families and active professionals searching for access to recreation and the beach while still living in a decidedly urban location. 

Drone Image Taken by CNVRG Graphics

Focusing on Orient Heights development pipeline, Saratoga, Bennington, Boardman, Ford and Waldemar Streets are witnessing the majority of the current and near-future redevelopment. Directly adjacent to Constitution Beach sits an East Boston Savings Bank, Burger King, Subway and Neptune’s Laundromat (between Bennington and Saratoga Streets). Although there are no plans in place on these lots, the space is underutilized and would be an optimal location for a mixed-use or residential development. The total building area of these retailers makes up 22,424 SF, while the aggregated lots sit on 96,680 SF (2.22 Acres). This means that the current FAR (floor area ratio) of the combined lots is 0.23. These lots fall within a “Neighborhood Shopping” zoning designation, however the area is also marked as an Interim Planning Overlay District. Proposed projects in Interim Planning Districts will be evaluated with expected zoning changes rather than the current zoning. 

917 Bennington Street, which will bring 42 new ocean facing apartment units, achieved a 2.92 FAR. Nearby, 16 Boardman Street achieved a 1.83 FAR when they delivered 19 new condos in February of 2019. MG2 Group has proposed a development at 2 Ford Street that would aim to achieve a 2.98 FAR, however it has yet to be approved by the BPDA. The CB Equities development at 946 Saratoga Street is another project that may achieve an increased FAR depending on phase two development on the site. This dual phased development (known as The Tess, East Boston) has yet to release its plans for the second component of the project. Phase one features nine impressive luxury condominium units with parking and private outdoor spaces. 

Not unlike many other neighborhoods in Boston, a core explanation for the emergence of Orient Heights can be attributed to public transportation. The Orient Heights MBTA station is drawing the attention of developers to this formerly “sleepy” East Boston neighborhood. A downtown employee can reach their State Street office in approximately 17 minutes when departing from the Orient Heights station. An MBTA study showed that this Blue Line stop has 2,833 daily riders, whereas Maverick station down the tracks in Eastie has 10,106 daily riders. This substantial difference in station activity can be traced to the housing density in each area. While Maverick has seen heavy development in recent years, Orient Heights is only just beginning to develop in ways that will bring more residents and services (and, in turn, riders).

Beyond conventional developer preferences (access to transit, underutilized sites and generous zoning), Orient Heights has additional factors that prospective residents will find attractive: a state-managed beach with walking trails, a recently constructed playground, a hockey rink, playing fields and a handful of eateries and services. Constitution Beach is impressive to say the least. Located a short walk from the CB Equities project at 946 Saratoga Street is Noyes Playground, which consists of 8.31 acres worth of playing fields and walking paths. Local mom and pop restaurants such as Luna’s and Milano’s Deli complement other dining and coffee options in the vicinity. 

Orient Heights is, inevitably, in Boston’s multifamily development path of progress. A transit oriented development community with infrastructure for commerce and recreation is difficult to beat! East Boston has seen a dramatic rise in development since 2010 but there remains much “meat on the bone,” particularly in locations like Orient Heights.  CNVRG is a forward thinking real estate brokerage and consultancy. We’re always looking for the next “it” location and Orient Heights is poised to be something special.