Off the ground – At long last, a real sign of progress

After more than 30 years of groundwork, Mayor Tom Ambrosino and a host of elected officials guided Revere towards a groundbreaking redevelopment at Wonderland on Monday.

Redevelopment efforts at Wonderland Station have come and gone over the years.

There have been successes and failures – one after the other – since the 1970s.

Six or more years ago, Mayor Tom Ambrosino began laying further groundwork with state agencies, successfully negotiating the beginnings of an agreement. And on Monday, the paperwork became shovels going into the ground for the first part of that agreement – a nine-story parking garage funded by state and federal dollars.

Last December, a similar ceremony was held on the site when federal Stimulus dollars became available to make the garage a reality.

“I can assure you this is the official groundbreaking,” said the mayor in jest. “This is a project that has been in the planning stages for about 30 years. This project is more to us than just a garage…By developing additional parking here we free up all the 10 acres of property on the Beach side for private development…It will become the signature project for Revere Beach and hopefully for the entire North Shore.”

He added that it should be considered a productive use of Stimulus Bill dollars, noting that more than $23 million of the $48 million garage is paid for by the feds.

“It puts a lot of people to work in a desperate construction industry,” he said. “It stimulates the private development that will take place on the other side of the station.”

Congressman Ed Markey (D-Malden) said the same, noting that he hopes to re-create the same kind of atmosphere that was in place when Wonderland was an amusement park.

“This parking garage will allow up to $500 million in private investment on these parking lots,” he said. “Once again this will be a wonderland. It will draw families to this place from all over eastern Massachusetts.”

Others in attendance also praised the project, including House Speaker Bob DeLeo (D-Winthrop) and Sen. Anthony Petruccelli (D-Eastie).

Noticeably absent was Gov. Deval Patrick, who was in Fall River on Monday. While he was at the check presentation ceremony last December, he was nowhere near Revere on Monday.

While everyone locally was optimistic about the prospects of the garage, not too many were as optimistic about the larger private development on the Beach side of the station.

Designated developer Joe DiGangi, a Revere resident and owner of EuroVest, spearheads that project.

That sentiment marked a growing trend by some on the Revere City Council, many who feel that the development climate in the near future will not support such a grand project.

“I would venture to say it’s going to be a minimum of five years away, and that’s the minimum for that,” said Councillor Arthur Guinasso. “The condo market as we know it now is not really big, so I think that’s years away at best. I’m not trying to uproot what’s going on, but I’m looking at it with a bit of reality…They’re talking about next year and, come on, it isn’t going to be next year.”

Councillor Bob Haas said he was familiar with disappointment in developing the Beach, as he tried the same thing during his mayoral run. He said a lot of time has gone by and not much has happened.

“I’m just hoping Joe can get the financing,” said Haas. “I’m not really sure what the ultimate goal would be for the final development. They’ve said it’s a 15 to 18 year project. Here we are three years into it and they’re doing work, but it’s really only the preliminary work for the garage.”

Work on the garage is slated to start imminently. Already, some preliminary work has begun.

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