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State, city to try to redevelop large state parcel near South Station; could mean more housing

Gov. Baker and Mayor Walsh this morning announced plans to redevelop land now occupied by a MassDOT office building - originally built for Wang Labs - and a steam plant near South Station into up to 2 million square feet of space for housing and other uses.

At a press conference this morning, Baker said the 5 1/2-acre project at 185 Kneeland St. would also include land owned by Veolia, which runs a steam-generating plant at the site; the company would replace the current large plant with a smaller one.

Baker said the proposal would make a great city even greater by doing something constructive with an underused parcel.

"I never really understood why any of our assets are open space, tall grass, beer cans and burned out automobiles," Baker said.

Mayor Walsh said the project would further help re-knit a city split apart by the construction of I-93.

State Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack said the state and city will seek community input on just what to do with the land before advertising RFPs from developers. The first public meeting on the parcel is 6 p.m. on Wednesday, March 2, in the first-floor conference room at 185 Kneeland St.

She added that part of the proceeds from any bid would be used to relocate the MassDOT offices now in the building.

Some more details from the governor's office.

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Comments

This isn't for 185 Kneeland St., is it?

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Thanks, will add that in.

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This is the District 6 HQ for the DOT. Kind of surprising....they've spent the past 3-4 years renovating the entire building starting from the 10th floor, down. Seems like a silly investment for the building if it was only going to be renovated into housing units....

On the other hand, it also seems odd they'd move from that location. It's such a central spot for that district, which serves Boston, Cambridge, Chelsea, and points south to Milton. Then again, I never understood a lot of the rational that gets used at the DOT.

I'm just surprised, honestly.

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....the Mattapan Trolley too and now they plan on ripping it up. Nothing says "government waste" like tearing down/apart recently rennovated infastructure.
REBUILD THE BIG DIG!
DEBT TILL 2200!!!

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is driving (no pun intended) this proposal. Baker's going right from the Republican playbook with this one. Because goverment use of land and buildings is wasteful, but selling the land to private developers is beneficial.

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MassDOT's occupancy of the building is not "wasteful", but the parking lot surrounding it certainly is. Keep the building, sell off the parking lot for development.

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Actually, no.

A lot of the highway district engineering, operations, maintenance and construction personnel operate out of district HQ. They need to be able to come in and out, and access work vehicles.
Contractors and consultants come in and out, too.

Now, if you want to say "build a tower on top of the parking lot but make sure you set aside two-three stories of parking deck for DOT parking" - that might make sense.

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As far as I recall, this lot is filled on a daily basis, with the exception of the designated visitor spots in the front of the building. Additionally, out back there is a gated loop where there is a landfill. Visitors can park out back there. As far as I know all of the other spots are assigned to the folks who are employed from that building.

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so redeveloping the land while keeping the building (perhaps with different occupants) makes sense.

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What's the deal on the Basketball court nearby , along side the X-Way ramp? That seems a tad out of place.

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It's a neighborhood park - mostly Chinatown, provided by the Turnpike at some point. I don't know if it was a land swap for Big Dig ramps or what. DOT inherited the arrangement.

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you can buy whatever the hell you want there after dark. THATS the deal....

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But during my time there, and at DOT HQ up the road, both places seemingly had plans to move to new locations. This dates back to when Patrick was in office. There are 10 floors at the D6 office and they weren't using all of them. I believe the State originally got the building in eminent domain after Wang had, um, moved on, for lack of better wording (not sure what exactly when down in the history books, personally). I was on a floor that was up for renovation that was currently holding down tons of new furniture for the renovated floors. There were two other people on the floor and we had our own offices. Greenway employees also operated out of the space. It was pretty clear that the building's capacity wasn't being completely utilized, but it served as a very good central location for the district.

Even at HQ, there had been plans to move out to somewhere else, I believe Dudley Square was a potential location for their offices.

I'm not about to start playing the game of which party is driving this agenda, personally.

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while that project was going on.

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When the state took over the building from Wang, they had both the managing consultant and all the sub consultants for the Big Dig move in there. At one point, there was a combined MassHighway/Big Dig logo on the side of the building where the Wang logo used to be. MassHighway's oversight staff on the project was split between HQ at 10 Park Plaza and the office building at South Station.

Once the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority took over responsibility for the project, they downsized the consultant presence in the building and moved their Big Dig adminstrative staff there. As the Big Dig was winding down, the building transitioned to headquarters for the Metropolitan Highway System staff. After the MassDOT merger in 2009, the MHS now comprises the majority of District 6.

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Then again, I never understood a lot of the rational that gets used at the DOT.

This wasn't the DOT's idea.

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That's my guess too. It's an interesting spot for housing development. CLose to the leather district, which has some decent restaurants (Bel Ari is awesome, check it out, I have no interests or relationship with anyone there.)

But it's surrounded on three sides by highway access ramps, on one side by Kneeland Street. Not to mention the bus station.

I can see wanting to develop the land, I'm just surprised that its for housing. Hope they have very soundproof windows and walls!

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actually going to be able to afford this, or is it just going to be for GE transplants?

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think too many GE transplants from CT are looking for housing surrounded on three sides by highway access ramps and a bus station for next door neighbors.

Good question though on how much affordable housing there will be.

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All housing in the city is affordable. The people living there can afford it or they would be gone. Maybe if you are a liberal arts major you should live elsewhere until you grow up and get a real job

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Yes, technically, every owned unit is "affordable." That you choose to ignore that the word has a very specific, and legally binding meaning in the context of Boston housing development suggests you're looking for the argument room. It's down the hall.

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It's unfortunate that the term "affordable housing" has been appropriated in Boston as the label for income restricted units. At least capitalize it as "Affordable" to distinguish it from the generic use of the word.

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all jobs are "real" because they are jobs meaning someone, somewhere is performing duties that are associated with what they call "a job". Which makes its exist and thus the job is "real". The hourly rate one may make doing "a job" really makes no difference.

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that the archetypal internet comment writer doesn't live and surf the web elsewhere until he or she becomes a semi-decent human being.

Also, I went to a liberal arts school and you probably work for me.

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"Affordable" is the modern replacement for rent control and government housing projects. Government socialists can't get away with outright rent control anymore and realize "the projects" are stigmatizing and counterproductive so they invented a subtler and more obfuscated way of doing essentially the same things.

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Attend those public input sessions and voice this concern. If we all just stand by and watch it happen nothing will change.

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GE is only going to employ about 600 people, so even if they all moved in here it wouldnt fill it. Plus, given the fact that GE wants a new car bridge and a parking garage built by taxpayers for their new office, it seems like most will be living in the burbs.

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Studios will start at $2700 and go up from there.

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Low end market rate condos are badly needed. All the current apartment developments are just creating a transient population.

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"Low end market rate condos" what does that mean? Anything close to downtown is going to be so expensive that formica countertops would not lower the price by much.

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A lot of the luxury units have doormen, private parking, gyms, pools, free tenant parties, activity rooms (with pool tables, large screen TVs, bars, couches), lounge areas, dog walking, package delivery, internet, offices...there are far too many perks to list. Those all add to the overall cost of rent.

An apartment building without the above listed perks can have lower-end market rates. I can easily see apartments in the $1600 range without having to pay out for all of the amenities.

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Most of those perks are nice, but don't actually cost that much compared to the basic action of putting up a new building in an urban area. Recreation rooms are often areas that they couldn't monetize as a unit anyway because they are interior rooms without good access to light, ventilation, etc. These are ultimately just cheaper ways to appeal to prospective buyers and tenants than, say, building larger units. Pools might be an exception, as I understand they are pretty expensive to build and operate. But there are only a handful of new downtown buildings that have pools. (And those that I have seen are basically just shallow water-features...)

But the real issue with condos in particular is that they are worth whatever the market thinks they are worth, regardless of the cost to build. In this location, I suspect units without the perks you mentioned probably wouldn't trade that much lower than units with the full ensemble. Someone could probably do some market research (or share anecdotes) looking at renovated/smaller condo buildings downtown to see how their prices compare to units in full-amenity buildings.

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Go through their Google images. Their rec rooms aren't interior rooms. They are nice rooms with large outward facing windows. One building downtown even has an indoor pool with skylights.

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My building that has none of the above amenities and isn't anywhere near the downtown core has one bedroom units going for around $1600-1700/month - there's no way in hell you can get those prices in a new construction downtown, no matter how cheaply made the building might be.

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An apartment building without the above listed perks can have lower-end market rates. I can easily see apartments in the $1600 range without having to pay out for all of the amenities.

Perhaps you can give us a breakdown on that $1600 and how you can "easily see apartments" in that range.

How much was paid for the land?
How much was paid to build the building?
How much is the monthly mortgage on the loan?
How much is the insurance on the building?
How much is the monthly utilities for the public area?
How much does the elevator maintenance cost?
How much does landscaping/snow removal cost?
How many people on staff maintaining the building?
How much is the monthly water and sewer bills?
How much are the yearly taxes on the property?

They all have to be factored into the rent, don't they?

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Related Beal is able to make the numbers work at lower rents because of the unusual nature of the property. The company owns a sliver of the site, while the bulk is controlled by the state Department of Transportation, which can lease it out for less than what a private owner might charge.

If approved, Beal would transfer its small landholding to the state, then lease the entire site back under a $12.3 million, 99-year deal, according to the company.

Secondly, Related Beal has loaded a significant portion of the cost, including the lease, onto the hotel portion of the development.

And finally, the company shrewdly tailored its proposal to qualify for a laundry list of federal, state, and local tax credits.

The apartments aren't really affordable. They are just partly paid for by others not living in the units.

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"The apartments aren't really affordable. They are just partly paid for by others not living in the units."

Is exactly how I view Airbnb.

I'm confident housing can be built for all income levels in the city. Will it be easy? No, not at all. But it will be worth it even if only attempted.

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Im confident I can get dinner at Del Frisco's steak house tonight

(As long as somebody is else is paying for 60% of my meal)

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They all have to be factored into the rent, don't they?

Actually - no.

The cost of something has very little to do with what one charges for it, especially when it comes to something as fluid as rent.

An apartment could cost 10 bucks to build, but if the landlord can get $5000/month for rent he'll do it.

Conversely, if a landlord would have to charge $5000/month to break even, but the market is soft and he can only get $2000, then he charges $2000 - or doesn't rent it out.

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Amen , but people will never acknowledge such until they take their own hard earned dough, forgo some personal consumption , and invest into that which everyone has an opinion of but no clue to how the actual nuts and bolts connect.It all falls under the umbrella of Other People's Money is other people's problem.

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It is better to use this prime real estate for housing, offices that will generate maximum taxes. We will get some affordable units. Use the tax money to improve our schools and improve transit.

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I'm not sure if many Bostonians are going to be able to afford this( at least non professionals) but any housing being built is a plus due to a massive shortage of housing going back more than a decade.

The Greater Boston Housing report card is a must read to understand our housing issues. A few key points below.

"prosperity brings its own challenges. None is more acute than the region’s severe housing crisis. Vacancy rates are now so low that home prices and rents are being bid up substantially faster than most household incomes. As a result, many longtime residents of the region, in addition to many newcomers, are facing a severe affordability gap between their incomes and what they must pay to rent housing or purchase a home. Prices and rents are rising so quickly that not only are the poor in trouble, but an increasing number of working and lower middle income families worry that prosperity may price them out of the Boston housing market.

Those words written in 2000 are just as valid today
in 2015."

"The New Paradigm report analyzed the supply and demand gap for housing and concluded that Greater Boston would need to produce approximately 7,200 additional new units per year— a total of 36,000 units above current production levels— if supply were to match demand. Otherwise, prices and rents would continue to escalate faster than household and
family incomes."

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Still can't afford anything unless we're talking lawyers or doctors pulling in six figures. $2000 that will get you a run-down rat trap slightly larger than a shoe-box is half of a $75,000 salary monthly take-home check.

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Greater Boston Housing Report Card! Please read, as a lifetime Bostonian it helped me understand our housing issues.

http://www.tbf.org/~/media/TBFOrg/Files/Reports/GB%20HousingReportCard%2...

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Chinatown has a great NGO community that will help advocate to set aside a large percentage of units as affordable housing. The One Greenway project next door is a great example, where almost 40% (!) of the new housing units in that building are income restricted somehow.

And even though much of the market-rate housing will be relatively expensive (construction costs are high, and this is downtown we are talking about), adding this many new units will help take the pressure off of skyrocketing rents in the region. (Which will help the vast majority of people in MA who make too much to qualify for income-restricted housing but don't own a Rolls Royce)

Or we can do nothing and become San Francisco, where we just let ALL of our existing housing stock become so expensive that the entire city is only affordable to corporate executives. I don't think either of us want that to happen.

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66 Hudson is affordable. The two are the same building. The developers went out of their way to put the affordable entrance on the opposite corner of the building.

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Interesting--it's odd that the "poor door" issue caused such a flurry of rage in NYC but not here!

At least we are creating long-term affordable housing units in the neighborhood. People with different incomes living cheek-by-jowl is a fine idea, but I'll settle for block-by-block if it means a diverse overall neighborhood. Although I do understand the opposite point. The values displayed by going out of the way to create a separate entrance are not the best.

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Interesting--it's odd that the "poor door" issue caused such a flurry of rage in NYC but not here!

It's caused a flap here.

A few years ago, a developer got a deal to build near Broadway Station by including lower-income units along with market rate units. He included them by putting them in another building - all the way over near E and 2nd!

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That city also has a huge number non residents buying investment properties. Without limits on speculation from people who aren't residents, building more will not have a big affect on the market.

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But doesn't THIS city have that issue to some extent as well?

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People on the Cape, NH and Maine have similar issues with non residents from Boston area buying up housing for summer or winter homes, driving up the cost of housing for the locals who have much fewer job opportunities. This isn't some new problem created by the evil Chinese, as much as the fear based media would like to make it.

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It is well documented that this is happening. It definitely has an effect on the local housing market. Your characterization of it doesn't change that a growing number of places are documenting it.

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The amount of this sort of investment has increased substantially in recent years, despite your snarky attempt to dismiss it.

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The Globe has already documented it many times.

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I always thought ti was odd that that building is set so far back from everything else around there. The people that worked there had a long walk through a lot of nothing from the street to the building.

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BUILD IT!!!!

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I used to work around the corner on South St and could see the steam plant out my window. Doesn't the steam from that plant heat a lot of the buildings downtown? Where do you move something like that?

Also, where is "Stouh" Station?

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That's not going anywhere (and it's also a different address). The 10-story building behind it, with the arched windows at the top.

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The project at 185 Kneeland St. would also include land owned by Veolia, which runs a steam-generating plant at the site; the company would replace the current large plant with a smaller one.

Maybe they are going to build a new smaller steam plant in basically the same place? It's not 100% clear.

Here's the street view:
https://goo.gl/maps/HFTWTUjyHUA2

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Thanks. Very familiar with that spot. I had an office in 185 Kneeland St. for roughly a year in a consulting gig.

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Shirley (over my dead body) Kressel will find something to issue a complaint about so this will be held up for the next 17 years

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The 1,300 number refers to the number of units the state and city say they've added over the past five years by working together.

The exact number of units on this site will depend in part on the final proposal for the land:

A broad set of goals will be developed for the site with the engagement of community leaders and residents, which could include economic growth and development, job creation and the addition of more open space and affordable, workforce and transit-oriented housing.

"Affordable" means units that are available to somebody or a family making up to a certain percentage of the area median income (80%, I think, but somebody correct me), while "workforce" means units available to people making up to a certain percentage above that amount. Transit-oriented in this case means it's next to a train station.

My apologies for the original error. This is what happens when you try to cover two things (in this case, this project and the snow-shoveling hearing) at the same time. Not a good idea.

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That would seem to mean keeping the office building as an office building, rather than demolishing it or converting it to housing?

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I liked the old spelling better.

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...a MassDOT office building - originally built for Wang Labs...

Thank you for including that, Adam.

I spoke with a couple of people who were in the room this morning - there were a couple of cringes when one of the speakers made it sound as if the building had been built for the Big Dig. Apparently, there's even a plaque somewhere on the way into the building that mentions the Wang history,

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But I think the flag pole might have a Wang plaque on it.

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This site is in a corner hemmed in by highway, rail, and channel. They can't possibly put in any access toward the south or the east so how exactly will it help knit anything back together ?

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on air rights over the ramps, similar to what was done at Copley Place and Prudential?

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Copley Place and Prudential are built on top of underground roadways.

These roadways are elevated. I suppose you could build a building on top of one, but it would be a very complicated and expensive project, and wouldn't have much street frontage.

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