Tom O’Brien, head of HYM Investments and owners of the 161-acre Suffolk Downs site, spoke in Revere once again last Thursday afternoon at the invitation of the Revere Chamber of Commerce.
O’Brien has made several visits to Revere, appearing in front of the City Council and other community groups.
O’Brien anticipates that on the Revere side of the Suffolk Downs project, between 2,500-3,000 residential units will be built, also included will be commercial development. Overall, between East Boston and Revere there are 7,500 residential units planned. The front door of the project will be Beachmont Square, with an innovation center, along with a new Belle Isle Square at the current Suffolk Downs station.
“There is no doubt in my mind that history will identify O’Brien as one of the most important people in Revere’s 21st-century transformation,” Mayor Brian Arrigo said in his introduction. “The foresight and creativity that he has brought to the redevelopment of Suffolk Downs and help frame out city’s future.”
O’Brien has helped put in place several developments including Northpoint in Cambridge, Waterside Place in the Seaport District, the Government Center garage, and the Bruins training facility in Brighton.
O’Brien brought up Amazon and stressed how, as developers, they have to make Suffolk Downs a great place. It is still months away until Amazon makes its decision on HQ2, but Zillow, an online, real-estate database company, came out with a ranking for the 20 sites on Amazon’s list. Atlanta and Washington D.C., came in strong for a potential first place ranking while Massachusetts was placed in the 12th position. O’Brien has said all along that the development of Suffolk Downs does not hinge on Amazon moving in.
“Amazon came out of nowhere, and now I think it’s confusing the process because in people’s minds they think it is easy. It’s hard to do, and it takes time,” O’Brien said, adding this project will span over two decades. “We specialize in large projects.”
O’Brien also spoke about how anchor companies will be brought in to the development.
“The fundamental piece for us is to make this work we need to make this a great place to live,” O’Brien said, adding that it has been decades since Revere saw new office space being developed. He stressed that the residential portion of the development has to be in place to fuel the commercial development. He explained that the companies will come to where the young people live, and he also sees restaurants coming in at that time. O’Brien has said he doesn’t want to see chain restaurants in the development, but wants to see independent ones.
“We think we’re going to be the first ones to break ground to build an office buildings in decades,” O’Brien said, adding that to build commercial space they do need to have a tenant. “This is really hard work. It’s easy to say no more housing. The hard work is that we’ve got to make it a great place to live. You have put the retail in and set these places up. If we do it right and make it a great place to live and work, even if we don’t get Amazon.”