BPDA Approves Suffolk Downs Phase I Plans

While Amazon has yet to pick a city for its second North American headquarters (HQ2), Boston officials are leaving nothing to chance.

The Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) approved HYM Investment Group, LLC’s Suffolk Downs Phase I proposal at its February meeting last Thursday.

Phase I of the Suffolk Downs project involves building on a one million square foot portion of the 161-acre site that would house Amazon offices close to the Suffolk Downs MBTA Blue Line station.

In its national Request for Proposals (RFP), Amazon said the city that  it picks would be able to provide 500,000 sq. ft. of office space by 2019. For months, HYM has been trying to make a small portion in the southeast corner of the 161-acre site “Amazon ready” if the Seattle-based Internet company decides to pick Boston and move its HQ2 here.

According to the BPDA, Suffolk Downs’s Phase I includes 520,000 sq. ft. of office space within two 260,000 sq. ft. buildings with supporting corporate space on the ground floor. Both buildings will be approximately 124 feet tall and will include terraced outdoor spaces with a landscaped, open-air walkway between the two buildings. The two buildings will share approximately 500 parking spaces.

HYM Managing Partner Thomas O’Brien said at last week’s BPDA meeting that about 12-acres of existing open space that is part of the Phase I portion of the project would be untouched while about an acre and a half of new open space would be created as part of the proposal. This would include

pedestrian access to the MBTA Blue Line station.

The buildings will be designed with energy conservation measures to achieve an Energy Use Intensity (EUI) of 44 compared to 59 for other conventional buildings, resulting in an approximate 24 percent energy usage savings and an approximate 22 percent reduction in stationary source greenhouse gas emissions. The project will integrate the stormwater management system into the open space network, to address potential increases in storm intensity due to anticipated climate change, in accordance with recent Boston Water and Sewer Commission guidance.

The project will include approximately 2,500 square feet of community space for use by the Eastie community as well as a historical display commemorating the history of the Suffolk Downs thoroughbred racetrack.

To increase safety at the vehicular entrance to the site, O’Brien said the site entrance at Route 1A and Tomasello Drive will be improved to physically deter illegal left turns from the site onto Route 1A headed southbound through construction of a barrier of the existing Route 1A median in partnership with MassDOT. There would also be signal timing changes on Winthrop Avenue, the creation of a new Hubway Station to add to Eastie’s Hubway bike-share program as well as a new plaza, enhanced landscaping. HYM will also make a payment of nearly $3.5 million in linkage funds to the Neighborhood Housing Trust and nearly $700,000 for the Neighborhood Jobs Trust in order to create both affordable housing and workforce development opportunities.

However, City Councilor Lydia Edwards said the BPDA approval is by no means a green light for her or from the people of Eastie.

“As I’ve stated before, I do not want our process adjusted for business,” said Edwards. “I want big business adjusting to the needs of the community.”

There is a chance that Amazon will not chose Boston for its HQ2. O’Brien said if Amazon does not come to Eastie but Phase I is permitted by both the BPDA and MEPA, his group’s plan would be to market the site as a ‘shovel ready parcel once considered by Amazon.’

“We would try and market the Phase I plans to other tech companies and if there are no bites, we’ll revert that portion of the project back to residential and retail,” said O’Brien.

However, O’Brien added that any major change of use that was approved by the BPDA would have to come back before the community and HYM would have to file a Notice of Project Change.

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