LAB SPACE REMAINS IN HIGH DEMAND
By Steve Adams, Banker & Tradesman Staff
October 20, 2017
The 161-acre Suffolk Downs property could accommodate a mini-city of mid-rise office buildings, 10,000 housing units and five hotels, according to the joint bid for Amazon’s second headquarters submitted by Boston and Revere.
The proposed residential units “of all shapes and sizes” could accommodate a fifth of the Seattle-based e-commerce leader’s projected 50,000-strong workforce. Retail spaces would total 550,000 square feet in four separate districts.
With Amazon seeking 8 million square feet of office space including 500,000 square feet in 2019, the cities’ bid says developer HYM Investment Group can deliver the first office building by December 2019 next to the existing Suffolk Downs station on the MBTA Blue Line. Letters from Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and Revere Mayor Brian Arrigo tout the racetrack site as an “unmatched opportunity” for the e-commerce leader to build a second corporate hub.
While asserting that “getting to and around Boston is easier than ever,” Boston and Revere’s joint bid for Amazon’s 8-million-square-foot second headquarters lays out a desired smorgasbord of upgrades to subways, commuter rail and ferries to accommodate Amazon’s workforce.
Suffolk Downs is positioned as the centerpiece of the joint bid by Boston and Revere. With two MBTA Blue Line stations bracketing the racetrack property on the Boston-Revere border, the report calls for a new connection to be built between the Red and Blue lines in downtown Boston.
“Connecting the Blue and Red Lines is a clear goal of the state, and we believe an Amazon campus at Suffolk Downs will help complete that connection, which would tie East Boston and Revere directly to Cambridge, Harvard and MIT,” it states.
The estimated $750 million Red-Blue Line connection was part of mitigation plans for the Central Artery Tunnel project prompted by litigation from the Conservation Law Foundation. The EPA in 2015 dropped the requirement at the request of former Gov. Deval Patrick, the Boston Globe reported.
Other stated transit upgrades include a new MBTA commuter rail station in Revere next to the former Wonderland racetrack property, an extension of the MBTA’s Silver Line to Suffolk Downs, and a ferry terminal on the Chelsea River that could accommodate water shuttles to downtown Boston, the Seaport District and North Station.
“The access to public transportation and the airport, the size of the site and the capacity for development: those are the things that jump out at me as the most notable features (at Suffolk Downs),” said John Coakley, a senior vice president at tenant representation brokerage Cresa Boston, which is not working with Amazon on the site selection.
The 109-page document cites Greater Boston’s elite higher education system, diverse population and growing robotics industry cluster as selling points. It also cites the region’s extensive public transit system, with 42 percent of Boston’s residents living within a 10-minute walk of a rail station or bus stop.
Corporate and academic leaders offered testimonials.
“Moving to Boston means moving to a city with unique neighborhoods and a passionate, innovative and active community. Boston is a city that moves, and that movement brings the city to life,” wrote Reebok President Matt O’Toole, whose athletic goods company is relocating this fall from a Canton office park to South Boston’s Innovation and Design Building.
Boston-based HYM Investment Group acquired the racetrack property in May for $155 million. Approximately 40 acres of open space would be retained on the site, including a 17-acre public common.
While the bulk of the bid focuses on Suffolk Downs, it also lays out options for Amazon in the downtown and Seaport areas.
The Seaport District has approved office buildings in WS Development’s Seaport Square, Related Beal’s Innovation Square on Tide Street and Skanska’s parcel Q1 on Drydock Avenue.
Office towers are approved for HYM Investment Group’s Bulfinch Crossing property in Government Center, South Station and the Winthrop Square garage in the Financial District. Development sites in South End, Roxbury and Back Bay also were listed.
With Amazon’s estimate that “HQ2” would employ 50,000 people, the bid cites Boston’s progress toward its goal of adding 53,000 housing units by 2030 and another 8,900 residences planned or projected to be built in Revere, Winthrop, Chelsea, Everett, Malden, Saugus and Lynn.
Incentives listed in the document include $75 million over 10 years from the city’s inclusionary development policy – in which developers pay to support affordable housing generation – to create and preserve housing in the neighborhood surrounding Amazon’s choice. Another $13.1 million would pay for workforce training.
Walsh said Thursday that he has not ruled out offering Amazon property tax breaks if the city proceeds to the next round. The bid mentions the availability of tax increment financing agreements and payment-in-lieu-of-taxes programs, but does not cite specific dollar amounts.
“We have to wait and see who’s in the final,” he said. “We have to see what we’re up against and what cities are offering around America.”