Suffolk Downs Project Receives State Waiver

In an effort to make a portion of the 161-acre Suffolk Downs site ‘Amazon Ready’ HYM Investment Group, LLC requested an environmental waiver from the state, which would allow the Phase 1 project to proceed prior to completion of the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the entire project.

Last week State Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Matthew Beaton issued the waiver for Phase I of the project. Phase I of the 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. The Phase 1 proposal includes 520,000 square-feet of office space within two 260,000 square-foot 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 has been trying to face track some permitting with the city and state for Phase 1 as part of Boston’s bid for Seattle-based Amazon’s second North American Headquarters (HQ2).

In its national Request for Proposals (RFP) Amazon said the city it picks would be able to provide 500,000 square-feet 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 Internet company decides to pick Boston and move its HQ2 here.

HYM filed its request for the waiver along with a Expanded Environmental Notification Form (EENF) outlining measures HYM would take to avoid, minimize, and mitigate damage to the environment.

“The Waiver request was discussed at the MEPA (Massachusetts Environmental Police Act) scoping session for the project and addressed in comment letters,” said Beaton. Consistent with requirements for a Phase 1 Waiver request, the EENF was subject to an extended 30-day public comment period. The Proponent requested an additional two-week extension at the request of commenters. The comment period closed on Friday, January 19,2018.”

On January 26 Beaton issued a Draft Record of Decision (DROD) proposing to grant a Phase 1 Waiver on the condition that HYM provide additional information to demonstrate that Phase 1 of the project would not exacerbate flooding conditions of adjacent uses and properties.

According to Beaton, a study by HYM asserts that Phase 1 of the project would not alter or channelize coastal flood-related conditions on abutting properties.

“The Study indicates that the Phase 1 project will not exacerbate flooding conditions of adjacent properties during a joint peak rainfall and coastal storm flood events, as the Phase I project will not impact the primary flow paths of storm surge on the property or impact the primary flow paths for stormwater runoff within the Sales Creek watershed,” said Beaton.

However, some in the community like Jane O’Reilly were not thrilled about the speed at which Phase 1 has been pushed through channels at both the city and state level.

“Wait just a  minute….we  in East Boston have several groups that have been trying to meet with (HYM) to express our hopes for the former racetrack,” said  O’Reilly, who wrote one of three letters during the public comment period. “Now we find the meeting has been changed, waivers are being rushed, and documents are being changed on the Web site. Please stop hurrying and listen to the community. I very much object to a waiver being granted without review by the community.”

The Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) approved the Phase I proposal at its February meeting.

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