Back in February, Mayor Martin Walsh and Governor Charles Baker announced a city-state collaboration to dispose of a state-owned parcel near South Station in Boston’s Leather District and Chinatown neighborhoods. The land includes the Massachusetts Department of Transportation District Six headquarters, a steamplant owned by Veolia Energy, the Reggie Wong Memorial Park and a ramp for Interstate 93.
At a public meeting at the end of March, residents from the surrounding neighborhoods met to learn about the planning issues and the development process.
Drew Leff, a consultant with Stantec, outlined some of the issues that would have to be worked through for any development to take place. He said that the ramp would need roofing over, the Veolia site would need environmental remediation, a new steam plant would have to be built and MassDoT would need new offices for its activities. He said that all of these things would likely be included in the development costs.
The total length, including review and construction, could last until 2022, said Laura Merida of the Boston Redevelopment Authority. She said that in addition to the BRA’s Article 80 large project review, there would be a state-based Massachusetts Environmental Protection Agency review. She emphasized that the property would not be sold until the approvals were in place.
Leff said that, per state law, the sale would go to the “highest, responsible bidder”, which would mean that bidding would be restricted to developers with the resources and track record of succesful large projects.
The people attending the meeting got a chance to ask questions before participating in a visioning exercise, but they had more to do with the process and agency bona fides, especially since there are no actual proposals on the table.
However, Leather District resident Larry Rosenblum said that a parcel immediately south of the Kneeland Street parcel, a grassy hill between highways called the Infield, should be included in the discussions, in order to get the density and height the project would need to be profitable with the Kneeland Street scale desired by the neighborhood.
It does seem likely that with the constraints involved Kneeland Street will not end up being a 100 percent affordable project like the one Related Beal is building by North Station.