What If the Green Line Isn't Extended?
Who doesn't love a little alternative history? What if Dewey had defeated Truman? What if we never traded Babe Ruth? What if Zayn never left One Direction? Well here's one for you: What if the $2B mass transit Green Line project doesn't get built. We now know it could be $1B over budget, so this isn't necessarily just a thought exercise. Here are some developments, institutions and neighborhoods that could be set back if things fall apart.
Yesterday, Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone spoke at transportation officials' first public meeting since the MBTA estimated that the long-planned Green Line extension could be up to $1B over the projected budget. The Mayor tells us he was encouraged by the public support and the willingness of officials to find “smart” ways to trim costs. The Green Line extension would add six new stations in Somerville, one in Medford and rebuild the Lechmere stop in East Cambridge, a linchpin in the ecosystem of Kendall Square, one of the nation’s strongest commercial property markets. It could mean: $5.5B in private investment, 18M SF of new development and eventually $2.5B in new state and local taxes, the city of Somerville estimates. The Mayor aims to cut the cost without losing any stations.
1. Union Square
A city plan calls for up to 2.3M SF of private, mixed-use development valued at $1B, much of it revolving around the planned Union Square T-stop. Last year, a city aithority chose a master development team led by Chicago-based Mesirow Financial and Magellan Development, aka, US2. The site has been cleared for construction of the station and up to 700k SF of development that could break ground in late ‘16.
Today, Union Square may look sleepy, but it's a major intersection of one of America’s most densely populated cities. However, less than 20% of the residents can walk to a rail station; with the extension, at least 85% will be within walking distance.
This 180-acre area that borders East Cambridge could see 4.4M SF of development if the Washington Street stop is built as planned. In the Innerbelt, the profusion of light industrial space, junk yards and vacant lots could be replaced with 2.8M SF of new commercial space that would generate 8,000 jobs and 1,000 homes. The Brickbottom neighborhood with its well-established artist communities could get 1.6M SF of commercial space, 750 homes and 4,500 new jobs.
3. Gilman Square
Gilman, like Lowell Street and Ball Square, presents a smaller but still significant development opportunity. The city projects that Gilman Square could see 250k SF of commercial development that would generate 300 jobs and lead to the construction of 150 new homes.
4. Tufts University
College Avenue, the northern most stop planned, would fulfill the university’s longstanding desire to have a direct link between its Medford campus and its downtown Boston campus (where its medical school, dental school and life science initiatives are based). This would be a huge plus for Tufts and a big boost to Boston aspirations to build on the life science community growing at the Seaport since Vertex opened its $900M HQ nearly two years ago.
Among the larger multifamily projects in the area (392 units), Wood Partners purchased the site for Zinc at 22 Water St years ago, in part because the relocated, rebuilt Lechmere T-stop would be at its front door. Another reason: it’s in the orbit of Kendall Square, home of a leading global life science cluster, where there’s hardly any office and lab space available and gross rents are hitting $100/SF.
6. North Point
This summer, Divco West paid $291M for Canyon Johnson’s interest in the North Point site where the 355-apartment, luxury Twenty20 recently opened. No doubt, the new Lechmere T-stop was a major factor, says NAIOP CEO David Begelfer. The entire 45-acre former rail yard is permitted for 5M SF: 2,800 residences and 2.2M SF of commercial space including offices and labs and recreational uses. It’s integrating what was once industrial property that straddles Boston, Somerville and Cambridge with the hot Kendall Square submarket, where millions of square feet of development are planned or underway.