Suffolk Downs and high school building projects saw major milestones in 2022
By Adam Swift
The past year in Revere saw major milestones for two momentous development projects in the city – the redevelopment of Suffolk Downs and the building of a new Revere High School.
The groundbreaking on a new life science building and new residential building at 100 Salt Street, a 280,000 square-foot life science lab and biomanufacturing facility adjacent to the MBTA Beachmont Station took place in May. It will be the first purpose-built, large-scale laboratory and biomanufacturing space in Revere.
The HYM Investment Group, Cathexis and National Real Estate Advisors are planning to transform the underutilized 161-acre former racetrack site into a thriving neighborhood and mixed-use community. Spanning two cities, the Suffolk Downs development is one of the largest real estate projects in Massachusetts’ history and will ultimately deliver 16.2 million square feet of development, including 10,000 apartments and condominiums, 5.2 million square feet of life science and commercial office space, 450,000 square feet of retail and civic space, and 40 acres of parks and open space.
“The groundbreaking at Suffolk Downs marks an exciting new chapter for economic development in Revere,” said Mayor Brian Arrigo at the groundbreaking. “Suffolk Downs will create a new commercial cluster that connects the residents of Revere to the jobs of the future; we are thrilled to finally be an active participant in the booming life-sciences ecosystem.”
However, bringing the life sciences building and lab space to Revere was not without its controversy over the past year.
Ultimately, the City Council approved an ordinance change proposed by Ward 1 Councillor Joanne McKenna and President Gerry Visconti that would limit animal testing and the maximum biosafety level allowed at lab and life science buildings in the city.
Residents and animal rights advocates from neighboring communities crowded the council chambers for a number of spirited meetings on the subject, with a number of residents calling for more transparency about the proposed life sciences building.
The new Revere High School building project hit a major milestone in 2022, with the selection of the Wonderland site as the home of a new, state-of-the-art four-story high school that could open to students in September of 2027.
However, the project ran into a potential snag as the year ended.
With deadlines for submittals to the Massachusetts School Building Authority looming, the City Council voted to send the project, with its nearly $500 million estimated price tag, to committee for further discussion.
According to Brian Dakin of Leftfield, the $499 million worst case scenario budget estimate needed to be sent to the MSBA in December as part of the approval process of the schematic design process of the project. The MSBA would then review the project budget and timeline over January and February before making a decision in March which would set the state reimbursement rate and clear the way for the city to put the project out for bonding for its portion of the cost.
Many of the councillors balked at having less than a week to review a half-a-billion dollar project.
“The numbers are astounding,” said Visconti, noting that the estimates were $120 million over what was presented at the beginning of the schematic design process. “Basically, what you are telling me, to be honest, there was a notification that there was a vote needed at 12:30 this afternoon on a $499 million project. I can say for all 11 of us up here (on the council) that we all want a new high school … but we’ve had less than a weekend to review these numbers.”
In other major development news, work on the new Amazon distribution facility at the former Showcase Cinemas site on Squire Road.
By the end of 2022, the City Council looked a little different than it had at the beginning of the year, but conversely, more like it had at the beginning of 2021.
Early in the year, Ward 5 Councillor Al Fiore announced that he was stepping down as councillor. In the special election, former long-time Ward 5 Councillor John Powers was victorious, returning to the seat he lost to Fiore in 2021.
More tragically, Councillor-at-Large George Rotondo died in September. His vacant seat was filled by another long-time councillor, Anthony Zambuto, who finished sixth in the 2021 at-large race.
“It’s very sad, it’s a tragedy and was so unexpected,” said Zambuto. “George was a friend and a colleague and we served together for a long time. We didn’t always agree on everything but we were certainly friends.”
In the state election in 2022, incumbent state representatives Jessica Giannino and Jeff Turco ran unopposed and were returned to office.
Unsurprisingly, traffic continued to be an issue in Revere in 2022.
The most contentious traffic issue of the year was along the side streets off Squire Road across from the Market Basket plaza.
In August, the Traffic and Parking Commission instituted a 60-day trial changing the directions of one-way traffic on Sigourney Street and Derby Road to help ease traffic issues on those streets.
In the wake of that decision, there was a ripple effect increasing traffic to and from Squire Road on the other residential streets in the neighborhood.
Late in the year, the council voted to request Arrigo authorize a $25,000 traffic study of the side streets along Squire Road from Washington Avenue to Broadway to help determine a more holistic approach to deal with traffic in the area.
In November, Arrigo announced that the city took over ownership of McMackin Field.
Once seen as a jewel of the city, the Little League field has been overgrown and unused for years.
Arrigo said he plans on there being a community process centered around the future of the field and space.
Water and Sewer superintendent Don Ciaramella said that in the coming year, Revere will continue with an ambitious program of improving infrastructure in the city.
In the next year alone, Ciaramella stated that the water lines will be replaced on 16 streets with over 11,000 lineal feet of new lines.
He said the current focus is to replace infrastructure and utilities in conjunction with road paving, so that everything is done at once and not in a disjointed manner.