By John Lynds
At Monday night’s Jeffries Point Neighborhood Association meeting HYM Investment Group LLC’s principal Thomas O’Brien announced that his group, which purchased the 161-acre Suffolk Downs Racetrack site in the spring, has filed its Letter of Intent with the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA).
O’Brien said his group plans to file an Expanded Project Notification Form (PNF) around the first week of December.
According to the Letter of Intent filed by HYM, the development group believes the redevelopment of Suffolk Downs provides, “a unique opportunity to create additional housing, spur economic development, and improve connections between several adjoining neighborhoods”.
At Monday’s JPNA meeting, O’Brien provided early renderings of what HYM has envisioned for the parcel. O’Brien said his group looks at the two Blue Line MBTA stations of Suffolk Downs and Beachmont as the ‘front entrances’ to the development. The renderings show HYM”s plans to create retail squares around the two stations on the Suffolk Downs property. Through a network of street scapes and greens pace the two ‘squares’ in Eastie and Revere would be interconnected. O’Brien said by using the two MBTA stations as the property’s front entrance HYM hopes to create a feel that the property is not isolated from Eastie and Revere but connected and part of the two communities.
O’Brien said he feels there are also opportunities on public land that could extend the Greenway here past Constitution Beach and onto Belle Isle and Suffolk Downs. Friends of the East Boston Greenway’s Karen Maddalena said O’Brien’s team has already met with the group to discuss ways extending the Greenway might work.
O’Brien and his team again made comparisons between Suffolk Downs and Assembly Row but said the look and feel will be a lot different. While Assembly has been the benchmark of a mixed use housing and retail development, O’Brien said he feels HYM can expand on those ideas and concepts and improve them. He also said that Assembly has more of an industrial feel with the types of materials and architecture used as a nod to Somerville’s industrial past. However, with both Eastie and Revere being costal communities O’Brien said HYM is shooting more for a coastal theme for the development.
On open space, O’Brien said HYM plans to bring 40 acres of green space to the parcel by using some of the existing open space and wetlands. O’Brien added that the green space will have two purposes. While the green space will serve residents in Eastie, Revere and those living at Suffolk Downs it will also address flooding and climate change. O’Brien said the landscape architects HYM has hired is looking at ways to use the green space not only as public open space but also as a holding area for storm water during floods or big storms. The green space can be purposely flooded in order to move rising waters away from the development’s buildings and businesses.
Highlights of HYM’s Letter of Intent to the BPDA include:
Development of a new neighborhood with an active, lively and appropriate mix of uses (including residential, retail, office, lab, hotel, parking and other uses), connected and supported by new open space, neighborhood retail and civic spaces;
Provision of an extensive 40-acre publicly-accessible open space system which will include existing wetland features and both active and passive recreation areas;
Incorporation of extensive street-front retail anchored by two new retail squares, Beachmont Square and Belle Isle Square, as well as a new connecting “Main Street” retail district;
Construction of a new district attractive to employers of growing industries which will enhance and expand job creation and economic opportunity;
Incorporation of various kinds of housing to meet the needs of surrounding neighborhoods, including town homes, apartments, condominiums, and senior housing;
Application of transit-oriented-development principles, through integration of the two existing adjacent MBTA Blue Line Stations and alternative travel modes including new bicycle path connections and Hubway Stations;
Development of improved connections to adjacent neighborhoods of East Boston and Revere through the Site, including along new open space and pedestrian and bicycle pathways; and
Incorporation of forward-thinking climate change & resiliency strategies intended to address future sea level rise and other impacts of climate change.