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BPDA continues to plan out a marine industrial park that's less briney, more life-sciencey

Track 61

The sole rail link: Not exactly an incentive for large-scale marine users, agency says.

For the second time in five years, the BPDA has concluded it would take a massive infusion of cash for repairs to turn the Raymond Flynn Marine Park back into a fully functioning seaport - and even then, shippers might not come - so instead it hopes to concentrate future development there on alternative industrial and even retail uses, and on "marine" facilities that could be built anywhere, such as seafood processors working with fish brought in by truck rather than unloaded from ships.

It's the same basic conclusion the BPDA, which owns the 191-acre marine park, came to in 2017 when it asked the state to let it increase the amount of non-marine development there.

In an update to that 2017 plan, the agency has an answer for the state regulation that requires at least 67% of the land in the marine park be set aside for "marine" uses: Multi-story buildings in which the first floor are built out for potential marine tenants while the remaining floors are leased to life-sciences and other light-industrial and office users, with the newbies helping to subsidize rents for the old salts. The agency says the park already has some buildings like that:

This building framework is one that establishes and requires high-bay industrial space on the ground floor and a range of upper-floor uses, such as research and development, light industrial and office that are compatible with water-dependent industrial uses. The upper-floor uses will provide increased rents that can subsidize the ground-floor industrial businesses and facilitate reinvestment in Park infrastructure. The intent is for this building arrangement to preserve the capacity for water-dependent industrial uses, should they return, and sustain existing industrial jobs in the RLFMP.

All this could mean 6.3 million square feet of new development in the park, the report says.

The report lays out, in broad terms, an industrial park that is a lot more Kendall Square, a bit less salt watery, with more parks and walkways for people who work in the area and even just come for a visit before and after their trips to the music tent or Harpoon. One particular parcel, which sits atop part of the Ted Williams Tunnel, would be ideal for a park, in part because putting up a building there would prove difficult, if not impossible, the report says.

Simply put, the BPDA says, there's little demand for major port improvements beyond what Massport has already done with the Black Falcon and Conley terminals.

Drivers of near-term use demand with potential to grow in the Park include biotech, life science lab space, e-commerce, as well as local food businesses and advanced manufacturing.

As the economic analysis of the RLFMP has determined that water dependent industrial uses are in decline with no existing or near-term market opportunities for over the dock activity, the Master Plan Update frames planning and land use scenarios that build on the Park's strengths, and envisions a mixed industrial-commercial use district that is compatible with, and preserves the capacity for, water dependent industrial businesses. Market trends support several options for future uses that will advance the Park's mission, including, back-of-office and City-storage uses, service areas to support just-in-time service companies, lower-margin and emerging businesses with a need for proximity to the city, and businesses that tend to cluster to reduce transaction costs for buyers and to exchange knowledge.

Still, the agency says it will continue to aid the sea-based companies that already exist in the industrial park - such as Boston Ship Repair, which runs the largest drydock in New England, large enough to handle repairs to 1,000-foot-long ships.

The agency also acknowledges that marine and the landlubber uses it wants to add sometimes conflict:

Boston Ship Repair would also be interested in handling small vessel repairs if space and a shop area could be provided near the facility. This would include the addition of a small floating dry dock. The biggest challenge, however, remains gentrification. As local non-maritime activities encroach on the dry dock footprint, activities such as hull blasting and painting are becoming more difficult. A stipulation of the expected impacts from hull blasting and painting should be considered in lease agreements with existing and future tenants.

The agency adds that it is committed to reconstruct the industrial park's road network to provide easier truck access to the nearby Haul Road for the seafood companies - and Harpoon Brewery - that require 24-hour, quick access to Logan Airport and I-93 and the turnpike - while also making the park safer for the growing numbers of workers who arrive on increasingly overloaded Silver Line buses.

This would include new striping of truck lanes within the park as well as "connecting E Street to Summer and Cypher Streets for truck access to and from the Haul Road."

Still despite the agency's unwillingness to shore up the rotting bulkheads, piers and jetties - it proposes basically just replacing the park's other drydock, in terrible shape, with a new manufacturing building - it says there's still some hope for new marine uses there, should funding for repairs somehow emerge.

For example, if somebody did pay to renovate the longest of the marine park's jetties and then modernized them - for example, by bringing in power lines so docked ships could plug in rather than using their own diesel generators - the BPDA could see them used for the unloading and storage of bulk perishable cargo in refrigerated containers, for which there's just not much room at the newly expanded Conley Terminal on the other side of the Reserve Channel. Also, the marine park could then take on the shipping and loading of "grain, legumes, pelletized hay and similar agricultural products."

Even more optimistically, the park could be set up to handle the loading and unloading of "heavy weight rail cars carrying wood and paper products."

Of course, the last one would require an actual rail line, rather than the current Track 61, parts of which inside the marine park are now used for car parking and much of which outside the park has been converted into a test track for those new Red Line cars. Still, the BPDA says it would recommend maintaining ownership of the right of way for that fabled day when it could be turned back into a functioning rail spur, if nowhere near the extensive rail network that once existed along the South Boston waterfront.

The report says the marine park is well served by the Silver Line, but acknowledges the route is already near capacity and that more work is needed to ensure people can get to and from jobs in the district, possibly with designated truck/bus routes and ferry service directly to and from the marine park. Also, all the new development will need at least some new parking, the agency says, adding some might be able to be freed up from a "bank" of spaces designated for the overall waterfront. Also needed: Much better bike lanes and storage facilities.

The report also notes rising seas, and says the BPDA recently began a resilience fund - maintained in part by fees levied on marine-park tenants, to study and plan for ways to keep the whole place from sinking under the sea. Potential ideas include a roughly $300 million to $400 million network of flood walls and tide gates, and raised roads and sidewalks. Also needed: "Resilient" buildings that have their key mechanical systems well above potential flood levels over the next 50 years and that have paths for water to flow under or through them during flooding.



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in about five or six years, the Boston area is gonna wind up with a lot of vacant property.

But hey, let's ignore the history of the area, and how overdependence on a single industry has eventually come back to bite us.

Voting closed 38

The nice thing about life science buildings is that they have so much power and ventilation, they can be converted to other uses without as much fuss.

Life sciences will change over time but it's not going to hurt Boston. It's a good compliment to higher education and healthcare, the two other places Boston leads the country.

Most cities Boston's size would love to have the "problem" of tremendous interest in high value R&D.

In the past 50 (or 300) years is there any over reliance on any industry that has hurt Boston? Has the failure of any sector significantly stunted growth relative to the nation as a whole?

The joke is the seaport's loss as a maritime hub has resulted in the area being repurposed for high-wage industries. Life sciences beats unloading boats and gutting fish.

Voting closed 45

n the past 50 (or 300) years is there any over reliance on any industry that has hurt Boston? Has the failure of any sector significantly stunted growth relative to the nation as a whole?

Over reliance on Digital Equipment Corporation specifically, and the minicomputer industry generally, certainly kicked a number of towns in the teeth pretty hard.

Over reliance on being the financial, trade, and shipping center for the textile mills kinda put Boston into backwater has-been status for the early 60s.

Voting closed 0

I know some people that worked for DEC. None of them landed hard - they pretty much moved onto other well paid programming/tech positions. And that wasn't Boston proper anyway.

I maintain that the fears of "too much biotech" are silly. If anything, Boston is missing out to other cities that have more available lab space. The reason every new large scare commercial space is lab space is because there's ample demand and developers need to jump through fewer hoops vs residential.

Voting closed 22

DEC, Data General (that would be me), Wang, etc., stopped expanding in Mass by 1980, instead moving to low-cost NH & elsewhere. Eventually Compaq and EMC wound up occupying much of the old facilities in Mass.

Voting closed 12

but what alternatives do you propose? Naturally, the next big thing would be a great investment, but I have no clue what the next big thing will be.

Voting closed 3

And more roads.

And plastics. Of course. Plastics.

Voting closed 2

The cod in the state house signifies how large and important that industry was in Massachusetts. We also had whaling and the post-revolutionary trade routes to the Pacific northwest and Asia. We were a manufacturing powerhouse in the latter 19th and early twentieth century. We are basically the birthplace of mutual funds and other financial services. Now we have a huge surge of life sciences in part due to the higher education based here.

So for one thing I think there is enough growth and investment in life science to sustain this beyond your five or six year projection. Shakeouts will likely happen, but there are too many tangible things coming from it which benchmark investment to think it will be like the 90s tech bubble. Another key point which the above examples highlight is that this area has a history of reinventing itself despite "overdependence on a single industry" across our history so I think your concerns are quite overblown.

Voting closed 28

Producing ceremonial sacred cods was a large industry?

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Try reading the first sentence again slowly. You're either daft, or your attempt at snarky humor was incredibly lame.

The cod in the state house signifies how large and important that industry was in Massachusetts.

Voting closed 13

Education. Health care. Finance. Tourism. This isn't overdependence on a single industry. On the contrary, it is further diversifying our economy.

Does it seem like overbuilding? Yeah, yeah it does. But as someone else mentioned, the buildings can be repurposed.

My concern is that we're adding jobs faster than we're adding homes. We need more housing on the subway, where the jobs actually are.

Voting closed 25

Miss the South Boston Limited, it was two or three times into the old army base on that line. Would also go down along East First Street at two o'clock in the morning, an Switch Engine and a few box cars, use to have a red lantern on the back of the last box car.

Voting closed 27

It should be slated for abandonment.

Seriously - all the money spent to make this "resilient" is a freaking Olympic size boondoggle.

That money should be spent on places that cannot move, not moving into places that WILL BE INNUNDATED. At a time when the discussion is turning to managed retreat from shorelines, there should be absolutely no discussion about wasting money to put things in the way of sea level rise.

Even what is there should not be saved unless it requires proximity to the ocean. For this kind of money only the existing facilities should be rebuilt to new standards or moved inland.

Life sciences buildings do not need to be built in a high hazard zone.

Voting closed 5

We'll see. Big party up in here with all this money!

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If there is one general term which describes Boston through nearly 4 centuries -- it is Innovation

Boston was the first community in North America to establish a school for the people [Boston Latin School] -- 5 years after the town was founded -- nearly one hundred years later Ben Franklin attended [although he didn't gradate].

A wee bit later the Massachusetts Bay Colony set up a College [it became Harvard University]. To compensate for a shortage of buildable land -- hills were shrunken and their gravel dumped into the harbor and marshes -- creating the Back Bay and the Charles River Basin.

In Boston's nearly four centuries, its citizens [and those of its surrounds] either created or vastly improved: Banking, Hospitals, Medical Schools, Public Libraries, privately organized museums, integrated manufacturing, electrified transit and then burred it creating the first subway in North America. Boston's Inventors [many of whom came here from all over] launched revolutionary inventions such as: Fire Alarms, the Telephone, Mutual Funds, radio broadcasting, surgery with anesthetics, organ transplants, venture capital [sorry Silcom Valley it was here long before you were even an orchard] -- which spread from here throughout the world.

Nearly two hundred fifty years ago -- Bostonian's sparked one of the all-time great innovations -- not just a local community with a Town Meeting -- not just a collection of local communities with a Legislature and a governor elected by the citizens --- a Nation with its people governing themselves at all levels.

Two hundred thirty years after Boston's founding, William Barton Rogers a geologist came here from Virginia to Americanize a German concept for practical higher education -- he launched the Massachusetts Institute of Technology -- on the premise of practice in the laboratory and theory in classroom Mens et Manus]. His school crossed the Charles one hundred years ago and gave us real-time computers, microwave radar, air traffic control, the human genome, inertial navigation, packetized communications, Bose-Einstein Condensates, and begat Kendall Square.

As long as we continue to value education as the cornerstone of innovation -- and provide a place for innovation to thrive -- Boston will thrive and adapt.

Voting closed 9