There were nothing but glowing remarks for the development of Suffolk Downs and its developers HYM Investments, but Councillor Dan Rizzo is concerned about the addition of 2,000 – 3,000 new apartments in the proposed development.
Tom O’Brien and his team from HYM visited the City Council Monday night, recapping plans for the 161-acre site shared between East Boston and Revere, which has 52 acres in the mixed-use development project.
Design features include the revamping of two Blue Line stops, which will become known at Beachmont Square and Belle Isle Square. There will also be an Innovation Center at Beachmont Square. To help accomplish this HYM has presented a proposal for an SDOD (special development overlay district).
The request will now go to the City Council Zoning Subcommittee.
O’Brien said 2.9 million square feet will be commercial space and another 2.9 million will be residential for a total of 5.8 million square feet on the Revere side of the project.
“I don’t want to be the skunk at the backyard barbeque, but I do have some questions,” Rizzo said after O’Brien’s presentation, adding he had some questions for the mayor.
“I want to keep this positive. Do you think Revere can handle another 3,000 apartments on the doorsteps of Beachmont with everything going on,” Rizzo asked.
He went on to ask if Mayor Brian Arrigo had other assurances from the developer. Arrigo said developers will go through the special permit process. He pointed to Rizzo’s time on the Zoning Board and to the disappointment of Waterfront Square, where there is no retail. He pointed to new hotel development on the beach and the inclusions of amenities he asked for.
Then the bantering began between the two of them. Council President Jessica Giannino slammed the gavel. The two continued to the point of not being able to understand them.
“What we have here is a developer who is putting his name on the line,” Arrigo said, “and investing in our community on a different level than anyone else has ever done.”
“My question was pretty simple. Do you think the city of Revere can handle 3,000 residential apartments,” Rizzo said. “I just think we should learn from the past and have some assurances.”
The bantering continued again.
“I believe the redevelopment of Suffolk Downs will be transformative to out community,” Arrigo said. “HYM has a proven track record. Revere is positioned for a historic transformation.”
City planner Frank Stringi said the project is a breath of fresh air and noted how previous plans for the site included a stadium and a casino.
“The community will be involved every step of the way,” Stringi said.
Ward 1 Councillor Joanne McKenna added that there will be public forums held to keep people informed.
“Revere is going to be the place to be,” said Councillor Steve Morabito. “Suffolk Downs is a hot bed, and this will light a match for us.”
“I’ve alway said Shirley Avenue is like a volcano about to explode, and this is going to help,” said Ward 2 Councillor Ira Novoselsky.
“I have seen nothing but transparency,” said Ward 5 Councillor John Powers, adding how the Beatles once played at Suffolk Downs and the famed horse Sea Biscuit once graced the track. “I look forward to the day we put the shovel in the ground.”
“This is a win for our community but my heart is heavy because I was a lover of Suffolk Down,” said Ward 3 Councillor Arthur Guinasso.