By John Lynds
Last Wednesday owners of HYM Investment Group LLC in conjunction with the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) held a walking tour of the Suffolk Downs Racetrack site.
HYM and BPDA invited East Boston community leaders and residents to tour the site with a focus on Suffolk Downs infield. With a natural creek and manmade pond in the center of the racing oval, HYM’s Director of Development Douglas Manz told the group that the company hopes to recapture the natural open space, wetlands and waterways and incorporate them into the design of the Suffolk Downs redevelopment.
HYM is planning a mixed-use development that will include retail, housing, over 40 acres of open space and possibly a new North American headquarters for Seattle-based Amazon. Again Manz and HYM Principal Partner, Thomas O’Brien, reminded the group of a few dozen residents that the project is essentially the same with or without Amazon.
“We will still be delivering a mixed-use development with high-quality restaurants and shops, as well as different types of housing,” said O’Brien.
During the walking tour both O’Brien and Manz put a huge emphasis on the site’ connectivity to the neighborhoods of Orient Heights in East Boston and Beachmont in Revere. They discussed, at length, with local environmental activists the importance of open space and climate change resiliency. HYM plans to use the planned open space as a way to address climate change. Using cutting edge designs the greenspace can be used not only as public open space but also as a holding area for storm water during floods or big storms. The greenspace can be purposely flooded in order to move rising waters away from the development’s buildings and businesses.
After the tour residents like former City Councilor Diane Modica was impressed by HYM’s vision for the site.
“It appears that HYM is addressing the project in a very open and thoughtful way,” said Modica. “They are working with the best experts in architecture, engineering, environmental and climate change,, landscaping and open space and retail and housing. Most importantly the local neighborhood, both East Boston and Revere, has a voice in envisioning what it will look like. I spent time talking with the retail consultants and looking at the retail, culture and arts board and am very excited about the potential. Connecting the storied past of this site with the exciting future will transform this part of East Boston.”
“HYM is very impressive,” said comment activist Chris Marchi. “My top three hopes for Suffolk Downs are reestablishing the balance with nature by un-burying Sales Creek and improving water exchange between the Belle Isle Inlet and the Chelsea Creek. I’d love to see HYM provide opportunity and not just jobs by including smaller retail spaces for local business that may want to move there or expand. Also I want to see more on how HYM plans to connect East Boston’s great community to the site as opposed to building a foreign entity next to us.”
Magdalena Ayed of East Boston Harborkeepers said it was a ‘great visit’ to Suffolk Downs last week.
“It was so encouraging to see Sales Creek,” she said. “We hope our vision of daylighting (unearthing) Sales Creek for the restoration of a river and its habitat/ecosystem and for climate mitigation, comes to fruition one day.”
HYM Investment Group LLC Principal Partner Thomas O’Brien talks with resident last week during a walkthrough of the Suffolk Downs site.
HYM’s Director of Development Douglas Manz leads the group of East Boston resident on the tour.
Harbor View Neighborhood Association Chair Matt Barison takes picture of Suffolk Downs’ infield.
HYM’s Director of Development Douglas Manz talks about using Sales Creek as part of the site’s greenspace design.
HYM Investment Group LLC Principal Partner Thomas O’Brien talks with East Boston environmental activist Chris Marchi.
BPDA’s Lara Merida during the workshop.
HYM Investment Group LLC Principal Partner Thomas O’Brien discusses his group’s vision for the Suffolk Downs site.