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Boston Approves $8B Suffolk Downs Development


The $8B development of former racetrack Suffolk Downs by Boston-based developer HYM Investment Group got the green light from the Boston Planning and Development Agency Thursday.

The project includes 10,000 units of housing, which the developer says “represents the largest single creation of housing in Boston history." HYM also plans almost 3M SF of office and retail space at the 161-acre site.

The project will create an estimated 18,000 union construction jobs, HYM said, and 22,000 permanent ones. It is expected to take 20 years to complete and be one of the largest developments in Boston’s history.

HYM said it held more than 450 meetings with community groups and elected officials in East Boston and neighboring Revere, where Suffolk Downs is located, and incorporated their suggestions into the development’s design.

“We have a tremendous opportunity to create this new neighborhood from the ground up, and for Suffolk Downs to serve as a model of how to thoughtfully design a modern development with climate resiliency, transit access, housing, and public space in mind,” HYM Managing Director Thomas O’Brien said in a statement. “We look forward to moving ahead towards building a new future at Suffolk Downs, creating housing, improved transit, and jobs for residents and the Greater Boston community.” 

HYM said 20% of the housing at Suffolk Downs will be affordable but only outlined plans for 1,430 affordable units: 930 on-site and 500 additional units off-site. Earlier this week, activists urged city officials to delay voting on the development until more affordable housing was included in the plans, the Boston Globe reported.

Maria Carolina Ticona of the activist group PUEBLO Coalition told the Globe that rents in the working-class/immigrant neighborhood of East Boston have surged in recent years, claiming the “affordable housing” being offered is unaffordable to many given how median incomes have soared in recent years.

Sen. Bernie Sanders spoke out against the project while he was still vying for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Massachusetts officials, including Boston City Councilor Lydia Edwards, whose district includes Suffolk Downs, disputed Sanders’ characterization and backed the project, which her website calls the “single largest opportunity to grow the middle class in Boston."

Plans for Suffolk Downs call for creating and maintaining more than 40 acres of publicly accessible open space. HYM also plans “significant investments in transit infrastructure [that] will knit the disconnected, vacant land into the neighborhood of the East Boston and Revere communities.”

The Boston portion of Suffolk Downs will include 4,190 apartments, 2,200 for-sale units, 710 senior housing units and 12 single-family homes. Revere will have 1,672 apartments and 288 senior housing units. Officials in Revere approved Suffolk Downs in 2018.

Suffolk Downs was considered as a site for a casino under a different development team and then, with HYM in control, as Boston’s preferred site for Amazon HQ2. After Boston lost the HQ2 bid, HYM reverted the project to its original plan as a mixed-use development.

HYM also is developing the Bulfinch Crossing residential and office complex in Downtown Boston, along with the NorthPoint and Boston Landing projects.