Following a series of community Impact Advisory Group (AIG) meetings HYM Investment Group’s Managing Partner Thomas O’Brien said his group has made some design changes to the Suffolk Downs proposal as it pertains to his group’s vision for a ‘gateway’ square.
At a community-wide meeting at East Boston High School last week, O’Brien said the section near Suffolk Downs MBTA station that will be dubbed ‘Belle Isle Square’ has received considerable attention by both HYM and the community.
O’Brien said HYM has always had the vision that both Belle Isle Square and the opposite square on the Revere side of the parcel near Beachmont MBTA station would act as welcoming gateways for the surrounding community. The two squares would be connected by a mile-long boulevard that would include restaurants and shops.
After numerous meetings with the AIG O’Brien reported last week that HYM has made ‘drastic changes’ to overall design of the square.
“We basically changed this square drastically by moving one of the buildings over and widening the ‘square’ portion of Belle Isle Square,” said O’Brien. “We had a building along the Wally Street/Waldemar Avenue section of the project. What we created I think is a more welcoming and festive Belle Isle Square. We think this current proposal is a far better design for that corner of the proposal. We did a lot of that work with a lot of people’s input that are currently here at this meeting.”
O’Brien added that he sees the retail opportunities in Belle Isle Square to include daycare, restaurants and coffee shops.
“These retail opportunities will extend down a one mile long corridor and connect the East Boston side of the project to Revere side at Beachmont,” said O’Brien.
Another change O’Brien highlighted was along Waldemar Avenue.
Originally HYM proposed a row of townhouse-style homes that would line Waldemar. While it was a simple solution to make the 163-acre Suffolk Downs site part of the community rather than an isolated development, O’Brien thought his team could do more.
O’Brien said Waldemar Avenue HYM’s great connection to the East Boston neighborhood so HYM met with the community and tried to figure out ways to make this street another gateway into the site and connect it to the rest of the community.
The plan, according to O’Brien, is to create the row of townhouses but break up the series of homes mid-block with a park.
“Having this beautiful community open space in the middle of Waldemar Avenue we thought would really connect to Suffolk Downs site to the neighborhood and be a welcoming entrance into the site for neighborhood residents,” said O’Brien.
O’Brien said there would be neighborhood paths that would run through the park and connect to proposed bike paths and walkways on the Suffolk Downs site.
“We want to create a real neighborhood street that complements the existing homes on Waldemar, the new Orient Heights Housing development project and out proposed green space,” said O’Brien
It’s been O’Brien and HYM’s passion to make Suffolk Downs part of Eastie and not just another large-scale development.
“There will also be a 200-foot buffer behind the Waldemar Avenue townhouses we are proposing as well as the existing homes on Waldemar,” said O’Brien. “This will include pathways and bike paths that run behind Waldemar and act as a natural buffer between the residential neighborhood and the proposed building that are part of Phase I.”
In February, the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) recently approved HYM’s Suffolk Downs Phase I proposal.
Phase I of the Suffolk Downs project involves building on a 1 million square foot portion of the 161-acre site that would house Amazon offices close to the Suffolk Downs MBTA Blue Line station. 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.