By John Lynds
HYM Investment Group LLC’s principal Tom O’Brien held what he said was the first in a series of abutters meetings with neighbors of Suffolk Downs Racetrack Monday night at the Don Orione Shrine. O’Brien and his partners recently purchased the 161-acre racetrack, and is planning a large, mixed, use development on the site that straddles East Boston and Revere.
At the meeting O’Brien said his company is planning a series of walking tours of the property with neighbors and the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) to give residents an idea of his vision.
“We are in the business of doing large, complicated projects,” said O’Brien, whose company is currently redeveloping the Government Center Garage in Downtown Boston. “There are great neighborhoods around this site, and we want the site to be part of the neighborhoods of Orient Heights and Beachmont. Our basic vision for the site is a mixed use development. We want to create a development that will offer retail, a variety of residential units from rental to homeownership opportunities to senior housing, and a place that has great open spaces.”
At Monday’s meeting, O’Brien unveiled a tentative architectural drawing of the site that showed a mix of housing, from smaller townhouses to apartment buildings with retail, 40 acres of open space and the roads and walkways that will connect the site to the community. The drawings showed the larger buildings HYM envisions will be consolidated in the middle of the property while smaller buildings and green space would be concentrated along the Waldemar Avenue corridor.
Residents at the meeting liked the fact the smaller, two-story townhouses were reflective of the types of smaller one and two family homes on Waldemar, but there were a few people concerned over the height of the larger buildings.
O’Brien said the buildings that were larger would most likely be 70 to 100 feet tall, but cautioned that any proposal still needs BPDA approval.
“This is going to be a long and thorough community process,” said O’Brien. “As part of our BPDA approvals we will have to conduct a series of shadow studies and other studies to ensure our impacts on the surrounding community are minimal.”
Others at the meeting like Joseph Arrangio suggested with all the open space and retail being proposed the community should have direct, walkable access to the site from Waldemar. Arrangio argued that without direct community access, the site would feel separate and isolated from the Eastie community.
“If you want direct access we’d love to do that for you,” said O’Brien. “We want this project to feel like it is part of both the East Boston and Revere communities. If residents want pedestrian access from WaldemarAvenue then that is something we will really consider.”
O’Brien added that HYM is currently in the middle of conducting a traffic study and would share those findings with the community as part of the process.
O’Brien also addressed the Amazon bid proposal. The City of Boston recently submitted a bid to the Seattle-based company, and is hoping to bring the retail giant’s proposed second North American headquarters (HQ2) to the city–specifically to Suffolk Downs.
O’Brien said HYM is going forward as planned with or without Amazon. If Amazon comes, explained O’Brien, some things may be tweaked and proposed buildings repurposed but the proposal will still include 40 acres of open space, retail and housing.
“We are moving forward with or without Amazon,” said O’Brien. “The only difference really is that our plan is to build the retail and some housing first as part of the plan. If Amazon chooses Boston, then the Amazon offices and headquarters would be built first, followed by the retail and housing.”