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Two-family house could be replaced by 19 condos in Orient Heights

Architect's rendering of East Boston building

Architect's rendering.

Developer Patrick Mahoney recently submitted plans to the BPDA (the former BRA) to replace a two-family house at 16 Boardman St. with 19 condos.

Unusual for a building located within easy walk of a T stop - Orient Heights on the Blue Line - the developer is proposing more parking spaces than residential units - 27 in a garage.

However, that is still three short of the number of spaces required by city zoning for that area, so the project would require a variance from the Zoning Boar of Appeals. The proposal will also require several other variances, including for the number of floors, height and setback.

The three-story, $6.2-million building would include two units markets at "affordable" prices, Mahoney says in his filing with the BPDA.

The building’s massing is derived from an assessment of its site context and urban conditions. A mix of Hardie Plank and metal panels will provide a strong design statement along Boardman Street, setting the tone for strong future development design. The building skin will be a composition of brick masonry, metal panels, Hardie Plank siding, and panels. The proposed total main building height is 35 feet to the main cornice with a common mezzanine level, utility room, and roof deck above the main roof.

16 Boardman St. small-project review application (39M PDF)

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Comments

That street Boardman up the heights , the traffic is brutal at all hours of the day, it has the roundabout on one end of the street and traffic lights and it intersects McClellan highway on the other side of street resulting in bumper to bumper traffic..

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When I think about condos in East Boston I think about condos that are in areas that are close to parks or waterfront areas that are one or two MBTA stops away from Boston not three or four stops away, it wouldn't make any sense to buy luxury in Orient heights! I could just go up the street in Revere or Winthrop and get something much bigger and better. lol....

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In before someone calls you a NIMBY for reasonable points.

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The building was apparently sold for about $1m, new one is 6.2, and revenues are probably much over 10 maybe 15 depending on the unit size

Currently, there's a nice amount of green space and trees on all sides that it looks like the developer is proposing cutting down without any room to plant new ones. The entire property would be covered up.

It would be very massive from the street perspective and really change the feel of the street for people for the smaller properties directly across on the other side of the street.

It's a pretty generic and boxy design, and it should have fewer units in it. As someone else mentioned, there's already a lot of congestion there.

It's really a pretty large proposal and is very close to the street compared to what is there now. A smaller building could allow more room on all sides more like what is there now.

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People need places to live, and the rent is too damn high. Neighborhoods change, and time moves inexorably forward.

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There's already been so much new building without any drop in prices. You can keep adding more but it's unlikely to make rents less.

"Neighborhoods change" doesn't need to occur everywhere if it the project doesn't make sense and it's just for some profit.

That's why people work hard to figure out what's best for their neighborhood. Other people don't decide that.

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There's already been so much new building without any drop in prices. You can keep adding more but it's unlikely to make rents less.

The projects we've been building are generally not very big and they get approved at a glacial pace. The vacancy rate is still under 5 percent. If that's not an indication that we need to be building more units and faster, I don't know what is.

"Neighborhoods change" doesn't need to occur everywhere if it the project doesn't make sense and it's just for some profit.

Please tell me which Boston neighborhood you think is a better candidate for densification than Orient Heights. I guarantee you there are people in that neighborhood who would object to it on these exact same grounds.

That's why people work hard to figure out what's best for their neighborhood. Other people don't decide that.

That's a fantasy. Most of our height and parking regulations do not reflect the way that things are today. If Boston were completely re-built according to current zoning, it would feel much more suburban and we would have less than half as much housing as we do today.

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"The projects we've been building are generally not very big and they get approved at a glacial pace. The vacancy rate is still under 5 percent. If that's not an indication that we need to be building more units and faster, I don't know what is."

What are you talking? There have been many thousands of units added in the area over the last decade, and prices keep going up. You can't keep adding more and more with the kind of congestion its adding.

"Please tell me which Boston neighborhood you think is a better candidate for densification than Orient Heights. I guarantee you there are people in that neighborhood who would object to it on these exact same grounds."

You seem to arrogantly think that what people want in their own neighborhoods doesn't matter because others want to complain about rents and people should just let developers grow their earnings. It's just not going to be affordable to a lot of people no matter how much more you add. It hasn't many other similar types of regions.

"That's a fantasy. Most of our height and parking regulations do not reflect the way that things are today. If Boston were completely re-built according to current zoning, it would feel much more suburban and we would have less than half as much housing as we do today."

They are that way because that's what residents want, and just because other want lower rents in places they don't live yet, doesn't mean that they should just be changed. Also, there's still the issue that it's not going to lower rents anyway, and hasn't.

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There have been many thousands of units added in the area over the last decade, and prices keep going up.

I'm not sure I see your point. We know that the number of new units is not as high as it could be (because of NIMBY arguments like the one we're having right now) and we know that there are more people looking for apartments than there are apartments available. It doesn't really matter if you think the number of new housing units we're building is "a lot" just based on your personal standards. The vacancy rate tells us everything that we need to know.

You can't keep adding more and more with the kind of congestion its adding.

Yes you can. Boston is not even close to the densest city in the country (let alone the developed world). Paris has roughly 4 times the population density of Boston. One thing that is absolutely true is that not all of those people are going to be able to drive everywhere. That's why it's so important for us to build lots of housing like this near the train.

You seem to arrogantly think that what people want in their own neighborhoods doesn't matter because others want to complain about rents and people should just let developers grow their earnings.

It is usually in the best interest of home-owners to prevent new development because doing so forces up their own property values. The problem is if everyone is allowed to do this it increases homelessness and hurts the region's economy (businesses have a hard time hiring new workers--especially at the entry level--because they can't afford to live in the area). People think they want high property values, tons of parking, and short buildings because the disadvantages seem distant, abstract, and diffuse. When someone can't find a job they don't necessarily blame it on the housing crisis, but economists have known for years that the two are related.

Also, there's still the issue that it's not going to lower rents anyway, and hasn't.

Hard to say for sure since we've literally never done it before anywhere in the country.

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"I'm not sure I see your point. We know that the number of new units is not as high as it could be (because of NIMBY arguments like the one we're having right now) and we know that there are more people looking for apartments than there are apartments available. It doesn't really matter if you think the number of new housing units we're building is "a lot" just based on your personal standards. The vacancy rate tells us everything that we need to know."

First you said there wasn't a lot of new units being created, then you said you don't see the point, so you aren't really keeping your own argument straight. There are low vacancy rates in these kinds of desirable areas, and that says you can keep building and not make rents more affordable.

"Yes you can."

That fact that it's already one of the densest is a reason why we can't keep adding more. Comparing other locations is irrelevant because they have different congestion situations and a variety of different things.

"It is usually in the best interest of home-owners to prevent..."

Those are standard pro development industry talking points. There is not some exact number of buyers that if we keep building then there's no more demand. People to not want too large developments near them, and that's fine. It's not all about property values, it's about the feel of any particular area. That matters, even if you just want to brush aside their concerns because you think rents are too high.

"Hard to say for sure since we've literally never done it before anywhere in the country."

Ridiculous. There are a number of desirable regions that have been adding more housing for years and prices keep going up all the same.

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"There are low vacancy rates in these kinds of desirable areas, and that says you can keep building and not make rents more affordable."

How do you figure? If you add units to the market faster than people are buying them, the price will go down. Or are you saying that law of supply and demand does not apply here, and developers will keep raising prices even if massive numbers of units across the city are sitting empty (i.e. the vacancy rate becomes high)?

"Comparing other locations is irrelevant because they have different congestion situations and a variety of different things. "

So basically your argument is that Boston can't become denser because "stuff?" Can you be more specific? This is kind of the crux of the debate.

"There is not some exact number of buyers that if we keep building then there's no more demand."

There literally is, and it's codified in the Mayor's Boston 2030 proposal. It's not as if we've never solved this problem before. For most of the period between 1700 and 1950 we added housing as fast as people wanted to move into the city. Single family homes on large plots of land were demolished and replaced with densely packed triple-deckers. Boston's population grew many orders of magnitude without a proportional increase in land area. It was only with the advent of the personal car and our frustrations about parking that dealing with population growth suddenly became impossible and we decided that absurdly high rents were just a fact of life.

"That matters, even if you just want to brush aside their concerns because you think rents are too high"

People are literally going homeless and being forced out of the city. This problem is way more serious than just "I don't like paying high rent." And if you think it's high now, just wait: It's going to get a lot worse unless we address the root causes.

"Ridiculous. There are a number of desirable regions that have been adding more housing for years and prices keep going up all the same."

Please give me an example of a major city in the United States that has substantially increased its density level in the last 30 years in order to accommodate population growth. I would love to be able to use it as an example when advocating policy with city hall. I don't think you'll find one.

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"If you add units to the market faster than people are buying them, the price will go down."

There's not enough room to do that.

"be more specific"

Because there's already plenty of density, and adding more of it doesn't make it better. There's a lot of traffic as well.

"People are literally"

Any place that a lot of people want to buy into are going to have high prices. The only way to solve that is with price restrictions. There just isn't enough room to let supply and demand solve this. The speculators and investors play a large role in this. Some rules reducing that would be helpful. There's also the fact that there's more and more potential customers for a variety of reasons.

"There literally is"

No there isn't. That proposal is just one perspective on this. The size of all regions keeps expanding and there's not some fixed number of buyers, and you aren't accounting for the number of buyers who don't even live here and just want investments. You are also ignoring that many people actually left.

"give me an example of"

Nearly all desirable regions have added huge numbers of units. It doesn't make sense to expand all regions to every possible density.

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"There's not enough room to do that."

Boston: 13,841/sq mi
Paris: 55,000/sq mi (4 times as much)

How is Paris able to do this if Boston is not?

"Because there's already plenty of density, and adding more of it doesn't make it better."

Again, plenty compared to what? Obviously there is not "plenty" if vacancy is near zero.

"Any place that a lot of people want to buy into are going to have high prices."

Again, wasn't true in Boston until the invention of the car.

"The only way to solve that is with price restrictions."

If you have 100 people vying for 50 houses, the price is irrelevant--only 50 people are going to get houses.

"There just isn't enough room to let supply and demand solve this."

If Boston raised its density to the level of Paris, we could house 2.7 million people. How can you say "there isn't enough room" when so many first-world cities are already doing this?

"The speculators and investors play a large role in this."

Other than a few very expensive units in Downtown Crossing and Chinatown the problem of empty units owned by foreign buyers basically does not exist in Boston. Even in Vancouver where it is a relatively huge problem it's been estimated that severely restricting foreign ownership would only lower housing prices by a few percentage points.

"Nearly all desirable regions have added huge numbers of units. It doesn't make sense to expand all regions to every possible density."

Please name one. Note that the actual average density (and not just the height) must actually have increased. Current zoning and parking requirements in places like Boston and San Francisco (and nearly everywhere else in the country) means that even as we build taller condo buildings, the actual number of homes per square mile stays roughly the same or declines. Actual density increases are rare. American cities accommodate population increases by expanding outward. Cities that can't (like Boston and SF) just have ever increasing rents.

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You are comparing two different places. One would have to be dramatically rebuilt to accommodate what the other has.

Most of the densest places are not desirable if you compare the entire lists of them. Also, some of those cities have had slower and more stable growth.

"Other than a few very expensive units..."

Sorry, but you very wrong on that. It's all over the area, if you actually look at what's being written about it.

Also, the city you mentioned just passed a new tax this year. It has already dramatically reduced the number of those types of buyers. It might not lower prices, but it will prevent them from rising so quickly.

"Note that the actual average density (and not just the height) must actually have increased."

If they have more units than per area than they have more density.

Not all places should have the same kind of densities as other ones. Without stabilizing the expansion of buyers, it doesn't matter how much more we add.

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There is never some exact number of buyers, and there certainly isn't just because of a development proposal. There's a lot of investors that aren't regulated like they are in other cities. The increase in buyers that's occurred for a number of reasons means the amount we build is irrelevant unless we start limiting them. Also, just because people can no longer afford to live in their most desired areas doesn't mean that there aren't many areas with significantly lower rents. You are talking about one of the most expensive places, if they move to surrounding areas they live there. In many cases it's because people buy buildings and increase rents.

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Also, that proposal only talks about the projected increase in growth over a certain time. That doesn't mean the growth will stop after that unless people change other things that are causing a lot of speculation and movement of buyers. You can't just keep building. It's great for developers but not for everyone else.

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"You can't just keep building."

Boston has plenty of room to grow. We're not even among the top first world cities in terms of density, and even most of those cities (e.g. Paris and London) have plenty of room to grow by replacing short buildings with taller ones. The limit here isn't technical, it's political. And the argument that "we're full" is just NIMBY-code for "I don't want change in my neighborhood." Saying that in the face of displacement and homelessness is, in my opinion, morally reprehensible.

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Those are exceptions. Most of the densest places are not desirable places to live. There's already a lot of traffic here.

You are also unfairly characterizing the arguments. It's not that people don't care about displacement. It's that the kind of growth you are talking about building for isn't going to make it better or more affordable. Just because people can't afford the most expensive locations doesn't mean there aren't more affordable ones in the same region. Price restrictions on housing are another options, but endless construction isn't a lasting solution if there's always going to be more buyers.

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"As a result, the proposed building has been designed and scaled to complement" the street.

It's like they aren't even trying anymore.

It's proposed taller and boxier and closer to the street than anything else there. It can't really "compliment" it if it's removing all the trees on the property and most of the open grass area. It a box covering up an entire lot.

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Using street view from immediately in front of the lot I can see at least 3 other buildings that have 3 stories and no setback (meaning they cover the entire lot). I'm not sure what the problem is.

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Those are down across an intersection, not on the same residential street. The problem is that neighborhoods benefit from some open space and scale.

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They also benefit from density and housing. Right now this neighborhood has tons of so-called "open space" (mostly in the form of parking lots and paved "frontage") and not a whole lot of building.

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No, they don't. It's not their property, and it's just more density that people don't want near them.

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Nothing being discussed here is going to increase the amount of open space that counts as "their property"

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Open space between buildings affects neighborhoods.

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Yes, it increases the average walking distance between homes, businesses, and train stations, thus increasing the likelihood that people will own and use cars for everything.

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Traffic is key for local businesses , if the land was commercial it would be golden to build retail/resturaunt types of businesses with plenty of room for parking.

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If you have looked at the other replies, there's already plenty of traffic, and too much is also something to avoid.

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Spoken like a true long time East Boston resident! Up the heights. Down the square. :-)

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Up the heights to shades beach
Down the city yards
Down the square to Woolworths
Go down Maverick sq
Go down the Stadium
Go down the Airport and rent a cah
Go down Day Sq to Rileys roast beef and get a large roast beef w/ cheese and sauce and a pizza roll
Go up the high school

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Thank God the people of East Boston didn't fall for the bullshit people from Southie were told about developments near public transportation.

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I wouldn't buy a condo anywhere near Orient heights, it defeats the purpose of living in Eastie It's either Jeffries Point, Bremen Street /Greenway park area because of the close proximity of two train stations maverick and Airport station hop on a train and your at Aquarium station within 8 minutes. Can't beat that oppose to OH station nearly 35 minute train ride to Aquarium.

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I take the Blue Line 4 of 5 weekdays from Orient Heights and to State it's maybe a 15 minute ride barring any "delays", and thank god the Blue line is no Red line in that regard.

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Are you for real. I ride from Wood Island like daily and its only 10 from there. Maybe another 2 minutes from Orient Heights.

Please you can ride the entire Blue Line from Wonderland to GC in about 20 minutes.

Of course this is all depending on crowding at Airport and Maverick. Even still at its worse (minus the snarfu a few weeks ago)... maybe 20 minutes from WI to GC.

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Yep, these kinds of places need off street parking. There isn't enough of the alternative.

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Why? This place is 18 minutes to Downtown Crossing by Blue Line including the walk to OH. It's hard to imagine something being much more transit accessible than that.

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Plenty of places are far more accessible, that's hardly close. Also, if you haven't noticed, plenty of people are still using cars because not all jobs or shopping are near these places.

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And why would those people want to be paying a premium to live near a train station? There are literally tens of thousands of homes being built right now in parts of metro Boston that don't have transit. The driving commuters can live in any of those places. People who want to use the train to get around can only live in places like this. Building parking spaces this close to the train is a completely irrational use of very scarce land.

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First of all, it's not really all that close so there really wouldn't be that big of a premium. If anything, the new construction accounts for a big increase in price. Second, people move where they want and where things are in their price point.

"can only live in places like this. "

That's a choice for a lot of people, and we don't set aside housing like that. Also, no, most shopping is not only near train.

There's a lot of housing near transportation, and plenty of cars near them.

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" If anything, the new construction accounts for a big increase in price."

Yes, and parking (including the cost of the land required to hold it), is a big part of that.

" Second, people move where they want and where things are in their price point. "

Right, and price points are definitely higher near the train.

"That's a choice for a lot of people, and we don't set aside housing like that. "

Yes, but we should because many Bostonians choose not to own cars and right now the law doesn't allow us to build housing for those people.

"There's a lot of housing near transportation, and plenty of cars near them."

This is a circular argument. People own cars near public transit because parking is plentiful and cheap, and that's because a) we've been requiring developers to build it for decades whether or not the market demands it and b) the city refuses to charge for parking permits.

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"Yes, and parking"

Unless people stop using them and you can ensure everyone's job won't need them, then buildings need some of it.

"Right, and price points are definitely..."

Not everything around is accessible from them.

"Yes, but we should because"

Not having one is good. People get jobs in different locations all the time.

"is plentiful and cheap"

It's also because people get to places that they can't otherwise.

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Please show me the data proving that people living in new developments in Southie are in fact using all of their in-building off street parking today, and that residents of new buildings are regularly using on-street parking spaces. Just because you can't find a place to park doesn't mean new development is to blame.

Maybe if we were willing to charge people for that supposedly-precious on-street parking there would be more empty spaces.

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"Just because you can't find a place to park doesn't mean new development is to blame."

That's absurd. More residents means more cars in a neighborhood by any reasonable assumption.

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That's absurd. More residents means more cars in a neighborhood by any reasonable assumption.

If this is true then why does it even matter how much off-street parking we build? They're obviously going to park on the street anyway.

The problem of course is that your basic assumption is wrong. There is quite a lot of research showing that the availability of parking is a strong predictor of car ownership. I.e. if you want people to own fewer cars, build fewer parking spaces (and charge for them).

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You don't seem to understand. More construction leads to more residents and more cars. The answer is to just not build more than makes sense for the area.

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And how do you decide how much "makes sense?" Because it seems to me that low vacancy rates and high rents are the most rational way to assess that.

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There's always going to be low vacancy in any place that has a lot of demand.

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Maybe if we were willing to charge people for that supposedly-precious on-street parking there would be more empty spaces.

Those are fighting words on here :-) *gets popcorn ready*

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I don't understand. Somerville charges for parking permits and it seems to work out just fine.

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Lived in this neighborhood my whole life, 10 bucks the development gets cut in half!

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Eastiesveryown why do you think the development will be reduced to a low number of condos, if I were the developer I would just resell the land to a hotel industry giant or make it entirely retail /restaurant that's if the land can be changed from residential to commercial, there is a new hotel up the street, I can see why not,.

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Yeah, but, that's not how that works, and for good reason.

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Usually by the time the developer files formal plans with the BRA, um, BPDA, it's already been through the stage where the developer comes in with a proposal twice as large as he thinks he can get, has a couple of neighborhood meetings where he gets yelled at and so, to show what a great guy he is, "compromises" and shaves a floor or two off the plans (Important caveat: I have no idea if that actually happened here, but that tends to be the way these things go with the projects I have followed from start to BRA approval).

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East Boston condo developments don't create permanent jobs for the community.
East Boston could need a boost in the commercial /retail department especially in that stretch of Boardman Street in East Boston, I do enjoy eating at several restaurants up the heights but it could use much more, the heights has a lot of untapped potential, just look at all the traffic pouring out from route 1A onto Boardman street every single day, entire Boardman street is a commercial goldmine, but I don't see any commercial space other than the new hotel.

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I had this conversation with an industry insider today about the rapidly growing developments in Eastie, he was saying that Eastie is becoming something similar to Somerville Mass , Somerville was once and still is an Italian/Irish enclave with easy access to train and bus stops and major roadways right into Boston, City blocks in Somerville were sold to billionaires and redeveloped this could be happening in Eastie as well in the future. Eastie has 5 major T stops on blue line Maverick, Airport, Wood Island, Orient Heights & Suffolk Downs, conversation changed from development to the transit system , he says if one day they decide to install a train line under Boston harbor from Charlstown to Liberty Plaza on Border street in East Boston it would be a major game changer for Eastie.

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he says if one day they decide to install a train line under Boston harbor from Charlstown to Liberty Plaza on Border street in East Boston it would be a major game changer for Eastie.

Only if you want to believe..

Please, get serious. I'll be dead before I ever see this get an inch of traction. We would see many more things get completed before two connect two very-transit-centric areas are connected together. There's virtually no data to support such an extension. You'd see rail lines to Chelsea, Roslindale, Lynn/Salem, and just about every other major transportation project that has been proposed be completed before this would ever be tackled on. Ridership supports those projects (but financing does not), a Eastie -> Charlestown Rail link.. not so much.

Love to know where your 'industry insider' got this notion. Are you sure he didn't mean a ferry service? I know that has been in the works for a while to get Eastie its own ferry dock which would connect it to Charlestown and beyond.

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Cybah with all the new developments emerging along the Border Street corridor , with close to 600 units combined just on Border street and much more to come when private land and mill /factory owners decide to sell to developers , who knows how many more, but with the parking and traffic situation increasing in Eastie , it makes absolutely perfect sense to add a transit line from Charlestown to the Border street shore line, with buses waiting in Charlestown to take passengers to govnt center or the new casino in Everett, they completed the Williams tunnel transit line within 10 years , well, they can do the same.

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Ferry service from Boston to East Boston doesn't come cheap, in regards of maintaining and replacing ferries every 5 years, plus it will take much more time especially during winter when the harbor is filled with ice, how much would it cost the city to have the coast guard or whoever is responsible to chop the ice so they can clear the waterway for the passenger ferries, with a newly built underground train line system from Charlestown to the Border street shoreline in Eastie would be much more cost effective and long lasting.
Eastie could see several thousand apartments/condos by the end of this decade on Border street alone, by having a new train line going underneath the harbor from Charlestown to Border street will ease the traffic crunch around central Sq in Eastie .
Right now Eastie shoreline along Border street is an open canvas, and it should be carefully used for future uses such as in this case a much needed Train station.

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