Boston, Revere team up on pitching Amazon on Suffolk Downs; propose mixed-use development

Look to Boston

Boston today released its bid to Amazon that calls for creation of a new Amazonian neighborhood at Suffolk Downs that would include 10,000 new housing units - some even aimed at people who don't work for the company - 1,500 hotel rooms, four new shopping districts and 40 acres of open space and the 8 million square feet of office space Amazon wants.

Amazon proposal

The bid, which is also supported by Revere and a variety of local institutions and companies, including newcomer GE, also says the state would reverse its longstanding distaste for a connection between the Red and Blue Lines downtown - which would put Amazon Downs within a quick commute of MIT and Harvard. That's at least a $750-million commitment. The bid does not discuss other specific goodies Boston, Revere and the state would be willing to toss Amazon's way in exchange for it making Boston its second headquarters.

HYM, which owns the site, and was already planning a massive mixed-use development there, says it could have the first 500,000 square feet of office space ready for occupancy by December, 2019.

The Phase 1 building design is focused around having Amazonians connected within not only the building, but also the larger campus and the surrounding neighborhood at large. The building is located adjacent to a Blue Line subway station and welcomes Amazonians to their everyday built environment as soon as they arrive to the Site. The path from the train to the building will be surrounded by multiple parks that would offer recreational and meeting nodes, restaurants and cafés to eat and socialize and a ground floor that will allow Amazon to experiment with retail program and lobby options of their choice. Visual and physical connectivity within the building levels, horizontally and vertically, is embedded in the design principles. The building spans large efficient open floor plates to provide flexibility in program design, furniture layout, circulation and to enable collaboration and engagement among Amazonians while keeping sustainable principles as core values.

Access to technology is a key Amazon demand, and the Boston proposal plays up the Boston area's concentration of universities, biotech and medical facilities and tech-based companies. It also notes that Amazon itself already has offices in Cambridge and Boston that will soon employ 2,1000 people.

The bid also talks up all the historical, cultural and sports stuff any Bostonian would be familiar with and points to our wonderful public-transit system - and notes the fact that East Boston housing is currently 40% less expensive than that downtown, in a neighborhood that, along with neighboring Revere, exemplifies the sort of multi-cultural area Amazon is looking to move into.

The proposal gets fairly detailed on how Boston and Revere would re-shape the roughly 160-acre Suffolk Downs site:

Amazon proposal
Amazon proposal

The dynamic mixed-use community at Suffolk Downs will be anchored by 550,000 square feet of neighborhood-based street front retail. The development's creative retail strategy will focus on attracting a diversity of shops and restaurants that will spill out onto its urban streets, keeping the community active and engaged throughout the day and night. The retail program within this mix-used development will include restaurants, coffee shops and cafes, as well as a grocery store, pharmacy, bicycle shop and entertainment spaces. The neighborhood will also embrace greater Boston's active and healthy lifestyle by including crossfit, fitness and climbing gyms. Furthermore, the Site will also attract existing local restaurants and businesses and cultivate an authentic retail vibe for the community which will not only serve on-site and residents, but also surrounding neighborhoods.

This vibrant retail environment will also provide opportunities for a range of customized Amazon spaces such as Amazon Go, Whole Foods and Amazon Books. It could also serve as a testing ground for new urban retail models as Amazon continues to redefine retail as we know it. Given this is a ground up development, the new buildings can be designed to accommodate the vision and needs of Amazon retail concepts from the beginning, maximizing their impact and integration within the Site.

Two of the districts, Beachmont Square and Belle Isle Square, will be located at the two existing Blue Line stations. These two nodes will consist of street level retail along tree lined primary streets that will extend into the heart of the Suffolk Downs mixed-use district and both of these nodes will connect into both the central common space but also the new Main Street retail district. These three districts will, when complete, create a continuous retail corridor that starts at one Blue Line station, traverses through the heart of the new mixed-use Suffolk Downs Site and connect to the other Blue Line subway station. Along the way it will connect and cross the 40-acre open space system creating opportunities and synergy between the retail and open space network. The fourth retail district will be an open-air entertainment hub. The unique character of this area will be defined by the many distinct restaurants and pubs lining its vibrant urban streets and central plaza. In addition to bowling and billiards, this 100,000 square foot entertainment hub will also include a small indoor concert venue and other nightlife attractions. Combined, these four retail districts will create a synergy that will not only engage the businesses and residents but draw people from the surrounding neighborhoods and the region.

Just in case Amazon doesn't like Suffolk Downs, the bid also proposes space in the Seaport area of South Boston, Widett Circle (the gift that keeps on giving), Roxbury, that oddly shaped complex proposed for Back Bay station, Harvard's undeveloped Allston lands and New Balance's Boston Landing complex in Brighton.

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Comments

Just Imagine

How much better Boston could be if they invested in all these things without attempting to please a single large corporation.

Amazon: You better build union or else...

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You better build union or we'll smash your pretty faces and slash your tires. Then, if the union thugs are acquitted, Mayor Walsh can express how he is "relieved" that friends were cleared. Good Luck!

Traffic

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As always, we will ignore the traffic clusterfxxx that will occur if these plans come to fruition.We will pretend that everyone will take the T. We will also pretend that the T will actually run when and where it is needed and we will pretend that people only need public transportation between 5:33 AM and midnight.
Where is the plan to account for increased traffic and its impact on East Boston and the region? We will pretend.

What - you think building a

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What - you think building a 50,000 employee HQ in a place with limited walk/bike ability to the rest of Boston is a bad idea? Hush now.

If we can get a Red/Blue line

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If we can get a Red/Blue line connection and late night T service out of this it will be worth it. As for traffic? If you don't like sitting in traffic then don't drive in a city during rush hour. My bigger concern would be people, not cars, since thousands of people in Revere, East Boston etc would be priced out of their apartments.

Hilarious

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Red/Blue line connection? Hilarious.
Late night T? Hilarious.
Traffic is only an issue during rush hour? Hilarious.

If Red/Blue connection is

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If Red/Blue connection is feasible, I'd like to see them also do my walkable connection idea I've mentioned before in comments (like the tunnel between DTX and Park). There are stops where it would often times be quicker to walk unimpeded.

Finish the Blue to Red Ped Link between State and DTX instead

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The Blue-Red Subway Connector is never happening, period. However, as most Blue Liners know, a one block underground barrier between Franklin and Summer separates Blue riders from direct access to the Red (ie an Orange bypass). BLers walk several blocks under and around Washington St and then hit a dead end. Riders can see the DTX station at that point, but can't reach it on foot. This ped barrier removal would costs thousands. The red-blue subway link would cost billions, and the state doesn't have billions to spend.

Already Happening

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People in East Boston are already being priced out of their apartments.

If we get a Commuter Rail/Blue Line connection...

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The most cost effective way to do this would be to construct a new commuter rail station behind the old dog track, and provide a connection to Wonderland Station a quarter of a mile away, the same model as the ones between the terminals and central parking at Logan. Reuse the same goddamned drawings. Forget about feasibility studies on extending the Blue Line to Lynn or Salem or Portland or wherever, just break ground on this tomorrow and save us all some money, time and grief.

And get the Red/Blue connection, definitely.

It's just embarassing

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watching these cities grovel at the feet of these corporations, throwing money and favor at them.

(I'm sure we couldn't have done anything better with that money...)

tax spending

Did I miss something? I don't think we're giving them any money...

Tax abatement has the same effect on the city treasury as giving them money when they would otherwise pay millions in property tax (as would anyone else who bought the land and developed it.)

Walsh said he'll propose tax abatement if Boston is a finalist.

Much of what he proposes is state and federal funded. I suppose he can rely on them to pick up the tab but i don't know. Does he?

Tax spending is not part of the budget process so it does not have to be approved each year like other spending,

What's the tax rate on agricultural land?

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Even with an abatement, I'd wager that the City will be seeing increasing revenues.

Not that I am supporting abatements. Or even this whole proposal (give it to Detroit.) I'm just seeing a fault in your logic.

office parks

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You think office parks get taxed as if it was aggie land?

I might have to revise my view a bit

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I would have thought the track itself was taxes as agricultural, but in fact the whole thing is taxed commercial.

That said, the assessed value right now is $43 million, $30 million being the land. I would imagine that the value of the total build out will be a bit more than $12 million. Even a reduced assessment of the new development will bring in more property taxes than it does now ($540,000)

Property tax is one of the

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Property tax is one of the few direct city revenues development delivers annually. Abatement is the difference between how the city would normally tax the development and the discount it wants to give.

Walsh said he'll propose tax

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Walsh said he'll propose tax abatement if Boston is a finalist.

I agree with your characterization of an abatement being effectively the same as spending. I didn't realize that one was being considered.

Promises

The city is promising to do all sorts of things they otherwise wouldn't do: Improve public transport, implied approval of permits, etc. It's not a direct cash transfer but we're offering them benefits others don't get.

Nothing wrong with saying Boston will improve all these things but insulting that the city thinks 20,000 people working for one company are worth more then 20,000 people working for a hundred companies.

To be fair, most of the

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To be fair, most of the proposed transportation improvements would be funded at the state level. Perhaps the mayor just feels he can use an Amazon bid as leverage for improvements he'd like to be getting anyway. I certainly can't fault him for that.

I agree, and in respect to

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I agree, and in respect to the permit issues, I do think they would do the same for any company that showed up and intended to turn Suffolk Downs into 20k-50k jobs.

Not ours, but

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at least one city was promising tax breaks, which is just another way of saying "giving them money".

Seaport District

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Something tells me Amazon will want to build in a more desirable and flashy area.

10 million square feet us MASSIVE

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Largest building by square feet in Manhattan and NYC as a whole is the old port authority building, now owned by google; that's around 5 million sq. ft.

Gotta say..

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If they just judged on video quality, Detroit would win hands down.
 

That is a great video

I really hope Boston doesn't get this. We have already have a strong local economy. There are cities that have a deep need for development, need for jobs, and who are in very poor shape when compared to Boston. One of the cities that is truly struggling needs the second Amazon headquarters.

agree

I couldn't agree with you more, I'd like to see the bid go to a city that would be improved by the addition of Amazon.

Again, be careful of what you wish for.

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Amazon could care less about the people who live in any city it (takes over) moves into. Amazon just cares about Amazon's bottom line. They are not in the improvement business. If most of these new "high paying" jobs that they are touting pay very well, what do you think is going to happen to a city that has a large population of lower income folks? Not every Amazon employee will want to commute (and that is another issue in itself). That city will become gentrified and the lower income folks will be forced to move. Unfortunately, without the building of new truly affordable housing in this city or the state, many will be in very bad situations.

We are at a time where these large corporations with money to burn are seen as saviors. More like a Faustian bargain.

Yeah, that's a great video

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Only minor thing: At one point it talks about the giant pine trees while showing trees that are something other than pines (also, it glosses over that Detroit doesn't meet one of Amazon's demands: Decent public transit).

True

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Detroit has the People Mover :p

That said, I think the best thing about the video is they don't even mention Amazon, so it can be reused for general promotional purposes.

Also

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apparently they have tons of empty office space? Not sure that's really a selling point..

There is no way that the new

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There is no way that the new tunnel configuration going up to 93 north can handle all the traffic that will come with this. It can barely handle it now. I've been going through Chelsea just to get to work on time without the fear of being hit by people trying to jump the lanes.

Also, there is already a grocery store right there. It serves a huge population from Eastie and Revere. Why would we need a second one?

Also also, how are they going to protect Belle Isle Marsh? It is the last salt marsh in Boston, home to some amazing birds (sometimes even a snowy owl!) and is right there. Environmental concerns need to be addressed (but they are leaving the gas/oil tanks? ugh).

Also also also, GE is now announcing major job cuts after moving to Boston. No doubt, some of those will be the promised jobs that they touted before coming here. How will they make sure that the jobs promised will stay and we won't be left with hulks of ugly buildings where the coyotes of Eastie like to hang out right now?

mostly agree....

especially about environmental concerns. But I think a second grocery store makes sense since the population would get much huger?

Maybe. Target also has a

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Maybe. Target also has a grocery section already 3 doors down as well.

We did have a star market (wicked overpriced) up the street, but a hotel is being put in there now.

Belle Isle Marsh is across the tracks

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But in the image Adam shows, Belle Isle Inlet is kept in as good a shape as it is now. Of course, that is probably part of the 40 acres of "open land", but I am glad they are not going to put it in a channel.

40 acres

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The bid specifically says the 40 acres will be on the Suffolk Downs site. If you browse through some of the renderings, some of that will be rooftop gardens.

Agreed. I'm concerned about

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Agreed. I'm concerned about the construction phase and the frequent accidental spills and dumping that happens. With the casinos, their track records of dumping was a huge factor.

Not a new video

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The video at the top of this post is basically the same as the one that the city put out last January. Maybe they made that video with things like this Amazon bid specifically in mind, but it's not really something they did just for Amazon (unlike the other video, which is clearly aimed directly at Amazon in many ways).

"says the state would reverse

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"says the state would reverse its longstanding distaste for a connection between the Red and Blue Lines downtown - which would put Amazon Downs within a quick commute of MIT and Harvard. That's at least a $750-million commitment."

Hasn't this been proven that the guy who did the study purposely inflated the projected cost of finishing a tunnel between Bowdoin and Charles just so they could easily dismiss the idea of a connector?

Ari

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Ari Ofsevit, as usual, has a great write-up about this.

I disagree with his suggestions to elevate the terminus and to use a pocket track instead of tail tracks as I would love to see as much incentive to run Blue to Kenmore as possible, but clearly running a cut & cover tunnel from Bowdoin to Charles Circle is doable and reasonably-priced for the benefit.

Not sold on this idea yet

Amazon is looking to be convinced that Boston is the place to be. I think there is a reasonable basis that American cities are being played by Amazon. They may already know where they want to be but are stirring up some competition to leverage the best possible deal for themselves by pitting one location against another.

Location decisions rarely work out for the host location. The promised jobs never quite materialize, the $ input by the host never translates into the windfall for them and the relationship eventually breaks down.

Putting those two issues aside for a moment - a 20 year deal based on Amazon's business projections - really? Who in Mass political leadership is questioning them? Does Walsh have the bandwidth to even know how to negotiate such a deal? Is Baker even going to be around to monitor Amazon's performance points of their part of the deal?

Look at what has been mismanaged in this state over the last 10 - 15 years. The Big Dig. Look at the paralysis over how to fix the T. Look the Olympic bid. Look at the duplicity and corruption (appearance anyway) around medical marijuana. Look at the the casino process. Look are all the patronage issues that have saturated state government.the list goes on and on.

Amazon could be a good deal - provided - that tough questions are answered before hand. I have seen nothing about the detail behind the so called 50k jobs - how can any company project with reasonable certainty their hiring rate 20years out?

Accepting their premise would seem to require us to accept the assumptions that there will not be a recession or two over the next 20 years. We have to belief that Amazon will never be the subject of anti-trust action. Jeff Bezos will remain head of Amazon indefinitely - what happens if not? Amazon remains leader of their business sector - any chance that some organization somewhere is/has been formed to go after them over time?

More importantly - is throwing all our eggs in one basket in the best interest for Boston over long run. Up to their putting out an RFP, was Boston's or Massachusetts growth strategy for the next 20 years based on the premise of "let's get one big company" to locate here? Are we better off getting a 100 to 150 small growing companies to locate here?

Betting on one company and using our finite economic resources to fix long standing infrastructure problems also seems to be terribly flawed logic. We ought to actually commit to fixing what is broke and operate well - companies will come based on the inherent benefits of living here - that's my opinion anyway.

Business taxes

Disclosure: I worked with Amazon on a temporary employment assignment last year.

I tried to look for a nuts and bolts proposed tax break in the proposal, but I have a finite amount of time, and I stopped after the pretty map that tells me what I can do in New England for fun.

So I found this:

For Massachusetts, business taxes
are 8% of net income

Now I have two questions:

1) Will Amazon be offered a reduced rate?

2) If they are, will employees of Amazon also be offered a reduced personal income tax rate, or does the break only go to the corporation?

To opponents of the right: Remember that you criticize them (and justly so) for endorsing trickle-down concepts which serve to only benefit the already wealthy. Be advised to remember that if you choose to argue the "Amazon should get what it wants" side.

Amazon also

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says that the 10,000 residential units will house only up to 20 percent of its employees. Ok, what about the other 80 percent?

Marty, in today's Globe article, says "it’s too soon to talk specifics." Apparently talking about specifics will occur after a review of what the other contenders propose and a clearer sense of what Amazon is looking for. How about what we, as a city, are looking for?

So, here are some talking points:

1. Amazon speaks about bringing "high paying" jobs to the area. Which means that rents will probably go up, pushing more folks out of the city that can no longer afford to live there. How is Amazon going to address this 'cause 10,000 resident units is not going to help unless the rents are truly affordable. Will they be?

2. Housing. Where is the other 80 percent going to live and how will our state's infrastructure handle the influx of extra car traffic during rush hour on our already car choked roads and bridges?

3. Will Amazon help build new truly affordable housing to all those that will be displaced due to gentrification of neighborhoods due to Amazon's HQs?

4. Will Amazon pony up some big bucks to fix our MBTA and Commuter Rail?

5. If we are going to give a 136 billion dollar company tax breaks, what will be the benefit to the people not just city coffers?

We are also...

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The video forgot to add : We Are a City of NIMBYS.