By John Lynds
At back to back neighborhood community meetings, HYM Investment Group LLC’s principal Tom O’Brien downplayed earlier comments that his group’s focus at the moment is trying to attract Seattle-based Amazon to Suffolk Downs.
O’Brien’s group recently purchased the 161-acre racetrack and is planning a large mixed use development on the site that straddles East Boston and Revere. At Revere City Council meeting last Monday O’Brien said his group was going to ‘fight’ during the bidding process to attract Amazon’s second headquarters’ (HQ2) project to the historic horse racing track.
Amazon announced a deadline of October 19 for interested parties to submit bids to the company. Amazon is planning roughly an 8 million sq. ft. campus possibly spread out over several areas with a main campus.
While O’Brien was ‘all in’ trying to get Amazon over to this neck of the woods, and the economic boom that would follow, at last week’s Eagle Hill Civic Association meeting, and Monday night’s Harbor View Neighborhood Association O’Brien refocused the discussion to his vision for Suffolk Downs.
“Amazon put out request for proposals to cites all across the Commonwealth and it is pretty clear the City and Massachusetts want to submit bids,” said O’Brien. “Both the city and state have asked for information and proposals from a variety of sites and we have no idea what is going to happen.”
With that said, O’Brien still hinted that Suffolk Downs, with its two Blue Line MBTA stops, vast amount of land and close proximity to downtown and the airport would make the site a perfect fit for Amazon.
However, O’Brien was at the two meetings to discuss his plans for the site regardless if Amazon is part of the equation or not, and he feels he has winner regardless.
“Our basic vision for the site is a mixed use development,” said O’Brien. “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. Quite frankly, we want to create something with the same characteristics that have made East Boston a great community.”
Again, O’Brien made the comparison between his vision for Suffolk Downs, and Assembly Row in Somerville. And again, O’Brien said Assembly Row acts as a template, but HYM improve and expand on it at the Suffolk Downs site.
“Don’t want to compare ourselves to a specific project or a specific group because we think we are pretty good on our own at what we do,” he said. “That kind of thing (Assembly Row) is the base with the street level retail and the walkability but we think we can expand and improve that.”
One thing O’Brien said that would set his vision apart from Assembly Row is HYM’s ‘open space’ goals.
“We can really do something great with the open space here,” he said. “We think at this point at least 25 percent of the total site will be dedicated to open space. Twenty five percent on 161 acres is 40 acres, that’s a huge amount of open space and we are really excited about it. There will be a variety of characteristics to the open space from active spaces to passive spaces to playing fields and dog parks.”