Suffolk Downs Redevelopment moves forward, bringing new jobs and affordable housing units to East Boston
Sep 25, 2020
Affordable housing commitment represents largest contribution of affordable housing created by one single development project in Boston’s history
The Boston Planning & Development Agency’s (BPDA) Board of Directors today voted to approve the Suffolk Downs Redevelopment Project, a five-phase development project that will create thousands of jobs, affordable and market-rate housing units, and dramatically improve transportation infrastructure and climate resiliency in East Boston. Over the past three years, the BPDA has worked closely with neighboring community members, local stakeholders and elected officials to help shape the project to better serve East Boston’s existing and future residents.
The virtual hearing was the first BPDA Board meeting to be held simultaneously in Spanish and Arabic, building upon the inclusive and accessible public review process led by the BPDA over the past three years. The BPDA held the special public hearing separate from the BPDA’s monthly Board meetings to give community members ample time to participate.
Imagine Boston 2030, the City of Boston’s first master plan in fifty years, identified Suffolk Downs as a place for growth because the unique opportunity the vacant property presents to create a new transit-oriented, mixed-income area that addresses Boston’s need for new housing stock to meet the needs of a growing population.
Housing for a variety of income levels
The project, which spans both Boston and the City of Revere, will create approximately 7,000 residential units, representing 7.31 million square feet, across the Boston portion of the site. The residential units include more than 900 on-site income-restricted units, and an additional $5 million housing stabilization fund to support off-site income-restricted housing, bringing the total commitment of affordable housing to 20 percent of the overall units.
At least 10 percent of the total residential units will be set-aside for senior housing. In addition, the commercial portion of the project will contribute $28 million in linkage funding to the Neighborhood Housing Trust to support the creation of affordable housing. The affordable housing that will be created through the project represents the largest contribution of affordable housing created through one single private development project in City of Boston history.
In response to community and BPDA advocacy, the on-site income restricted units will be made available for families and individuals at an average of 70 percent Area Median Income (AMI), as determined by data from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The flexibility will ensure that existing residents with incomes lower than 70 percent AMI are served by the project. Residential units will be available to those earning as low as 30 percent AMI and will be marketed to individuals and families that hold rental vouchers. None of the income-restricted affordable units will exceed 100 percent AMI. BPDA will work closely with the City of Boston Disabilities Commission to ensure that the required build out of income-restricted disability preference units are available to the appropriate households.
The $5 million housing stabilization fund will be administered by the City of Boston Department of Neighborhood Development (DND) to assist East Boston-based nonprofits in their efforts to purchase existing market-rate housing units and convert them to income-restricted housing units. This fund is intended to address ongoing displacement pressures in and around East Boston, and to be similar to funding from the City's Acquisition Opportunity Program. An additional $400,000 will go toward the housing stabilization fund to assist East Boston-based nonprofits in their efforts to provide short-term rental assistance to East Boston residents who are struggling to avoid eviction.
The project will further Boston’s commitment to fair housing and non-discrimination by following an affirmative fair housing marketing plan that will ensure a fair and affirmative chance to obtain housing for all, including through marketing targeted at Spanish speakers and others with limited English proficiency.
Thousands of jobs and workforce training support for Boston residents
Once complete, the Suffolk Downs redevelopment project is expected to create between 25,000 to 30,000 new permanent jobs. The construction of the project will create approximately 14,000 construction jobs. Ten percent of all retail space will be made available to locally-owned businesses with flexible lease terms.
The project will contribute $5.536 million in linkage funding to support job training programs through the Neighborhood Jobs Trust. In addition, a $1 million investment will support apprenticeship training through the Building Pathways program for local residents seeking to work in the trade unions. A portion of the funds will be used for childcare to support a new initiative for advocacy, research, development, and implementation of a childcare program to support working mothers.
Twenty percent, or at least 40,000 square feet, of all ground floor space developed for retail or restaurant use will be dedicated to civic use.
Protection from future flooding and impacts of climate change
The redevelopment of Suffolk Downs will advance the City of Boston’s resiliency objectives as the entire project will be built with climate resiliency at the forefront, providing protection from both coastal and inland flooding, and stormwater drainage system improvements. The entire site will be elevated, including the elevation of streets, elevated first floors and utilities in buildings, adaptable first-floor space, and the creation of lower level garages that can be adapted as potential flood storage areas. Stormwater will be managed consistent with the City’s Smart Utilities Policy and a new stormwater system will be integrated into the open space network to protect Belle Isle Marsh from stormwater run-off.
The project will advance the City of Boston’s sustainability objectives and goals to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. All buildings will surpass Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver, with at least 75 percent of buildings required to meet LEED Gold, and five percent required to meet LEED Platinum. The project will provide $325,000 for a feasibility study for regional coastal flood protection, which will be coordinated with the City’s Climate Ready East Boston initiative and a separate study being led by the Friends of Belle Isle Marsh.
Improved local and regional transportation infrastructure
More than $170 million will be invested in new public roadways, sidewalks, bicycle paths, and pedestrian paths, water, sewer, and storm drainage facilities throughout the Suffolk Downs site. Approximately $61 million will be invested to support a range of improvements including off-site roadway improvements on key streets, intersections, and Route 1A; new shuttle bus service to the Suffolk Downs Blue Line Station and eventually downtown Boston and the Seaport; bicycle parking and bike-sharing facilities; an extension of the East Boston Greeneway from the project site to Constitution Beach; and, a robust Traffic Demand Management (TDM) program to incentivize walking, biking, carpooling, and transit use.
Over $20 million will be invested in the MBTA to fund improvements to the MBTA Blue Line, including reconstruction work to the Beachmont and Suffolk Downs Stations. Additionally, $3.15 million will subsidize Blue Line operations over a 15-year period.
The redevelopment will create improved connections to the adjacent neighborhoods within East Boston and Revere, including bicycle and pedestrian pathways to new open space and street networks.
27 acres of new public open space in Boston
The redevelopment of Suffolk Downs will create 27 acres of new publicly accessible open space across the Boston portion of the site, and 13 acres in the Revere portion, representing 25 percent of the project site. The new park spaces will include Orient Heights Park, connecting the Orient Heights neighborhood to Suffolk Downs, as well as several other publicly accessible parks that will include recreation spaces. The project will design and construct an extension of the East Boston Greenway from Constitution Beach along Bennington Street and Walley Street. Over 1,500 new trees will be planted throughout the project site.
The project will be constructed within five phases. The portion of the redevelopment project which is located in Revere was approved by the City of Revere in 2018.
The BPDA has worked closely with the development team over the past three years to create an inclusive and accessible public process and provide Spanish language interpretation at all BPDA public meetings for the proposal and translate meeting materials and project filings. All public meeting notices have been translated into Spanish on the BPDA calendar and advertised in Spanish in both El Planeta and El Mundo.
The BPDA’s ongoing community-driven, neighborhood-wide planning initiative, PLAN: East Boston is guided by Imagine Boston 2030, and is working alongside the community and city agencies to produce a framework to predictably shape the future of East Boston, and identify opportunities to preserve, enhance, and grow.