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.
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.
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.