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Developer Says Exchange South End Could Be Amazon HQ2 Contender

A Boston development company filed plans this week for a South End complex it says could be a piece in the city's Amazon HQ2 puzzle.

Developer Says Exchange South End Could Be Amazon HQ2 Contender
Rendering of the proposed Exchange South End

The Abbey Group's Sept. 19 Boston Planning & Development Agency project notification form filing provided the most details to date on its proposed Exchange South End project. The 1.6M SF technology and life science campus on Albany Street could cost over $1B to develop, according to the filing. 

The project would include 841K SF of lab space, 641K SF of office and 43K SF of ground-level retail across the four-building campus. The buildings, ranging in height from 92 feet to 282 feet, would surround a 30K SF central park. Although Exchange South End by itself falls short of the space needs for Amazon HQ2, its development team says it could be an important part of the puzzle in getting to 8M SF in the urban core.

“This Harrison and Albany corridor — starting with the Ink Block, now us, Andrew Square and Newmarket — it’s very much the vision of the city,” The Abbey Group Managing Partner Bill Keravuori said. “It’s a new tech corridor.”

The company says Exchange’s walkability to the Broadway and Andrew Red Line stations would be a motivating factor for corporations, including Amazon, to move there. Others have also taken note of the burgeoning neighborhood.

Developer Says Exchange South End Could Be Amazon HQ2 Contender

“The Dorchester Avenue corridor could be transformative, as it could knit together and create a contiguous experience with two of the region’s most exciting neighborhoods — millennial-heavy South Boston and the South End, one of the region’s best and most dense collections of restaurants and art studios,” Perry Brokerage Director of Intelligence Brendan Carroll said. 

Perry Brokerage’s Q2 2017 Blue report calls the nearby Dorchester Avenue corridor “Amazon dot Ave” and cites greater density opportunities and transit access to South Station, MIT and Harvard as to why it should be a contender for HQ2. The BPDA launched its South Boston Dorchester Avenue Planning Initiative in 2015 to consider rezoning the area to allow buildings as tall as 300 feet, significantly taller than the low-density warehouses and auto repair shops that populate the area today. 

Whether it is on top of the Red Line along Dorchester Avenue or at South Station, Boston’s HQ2 bid will likely need to entail transit-oriented development. Developers at Bisnow’s Boston State of Office event Tuesday stressed the need for better transportation, as traffic could begin to impact the office market if left unchecked.

Developer Says Exchange South End Could Be Amazon HQ2 Contender
Morgan Stanley Executive Director Jennie Friend and Rubenstein Partners Regional Director of New England Deke Schultze

“The Seaport’s growth happened overnight, and now it has its transit problems. Even Route 128 has congestion,” Rubenstein Partners Regional Director of New England Deke Schultze said. “It all adds uncertainty.”

But others see the bid for Amazon as a better version of the city’s 2024 Summer Olympics bid in that it would provide a deadline to fix its transit issues. 

“To lure Amazon here, we have to use it as leverage for finally bringing better transportation to Boston,” Riemer & Braunstein Senior Partner Robert Buckley said.