Residential Project Could Begin Much Sooner Than First Thought

The future Wonderland Transit Oriented Development (TOD) is getting the hurry up this month, as developer Joe DiGangi and Mayor Tom Ambrosino are pushing to get a shovel in the ground on a residential building by the end of this year.

The $500 million mixed-use development along Ocean Avenue has always been slated to begin after the public projects – such as a parking garage and a pedestrian plaza.

In fact, the last place the development was supposed to begin was along Revere Street and Ocean Avenue, but now it appears there could be activity there within the next six months.

“The City’s desire is to get that development happening and the developer is looking to move forward on the northernmost area of the site and not wait for the commercial development in front of the station because he will not be able to start working in front of the station until after late spring 2013.”

DiGangi said that they are hoping to have the first piece of the private development online as soon as the public structures are completed in early 2013.

He said he has the financing ready to go.

“The garage will be finished, the plaza deck will be substantially completed and the footbridge will be substantially completed at that time,” said DiGangi. “In terms of a visual observation, any individual coming by would be able to see what we’ve been planning for the last five years. The physical evidence will be there. It will be an ideal time to show the private side of the development. Because of the construction, we can’t develop Parcel H first like we originally planned. The next logical place to go is the complete opposite end.

“We’re chomping at the bit to get started,” he continued. “Our goal is to be substantially completed with this building by April 2013 so we could be ready to start leasing apartments that April.”

He said they are looking now at 195 apartments in one or two buildings, none of which he envisions going over five stories. He said they are still committed to keeping the sight lines and views through the project in any design that would be pursued.

He said they are at about 85 percent design of the building(s) right now and will only need to do soil samples and engineering work before getting started in leveling off the site for construction.

Ambrosino said that the hope is to start building a market-rate rental building on what is known as the North Lot – abutting Revere Street.

While most of the residential buildings were slated to be condos, some were to be rental apartments. And, right now, while the condo market is a bit stagnant, the rental market is very healthy.

“It may not be so great for condos, but that’s not the case for rentals,” said the mayor. “That’s where there is a market now. That’s pretty much the only market right now, but it’s a strong market…We want work going on there next spring at the latest.”

Added DiGangi, “That’s really what’s driving this.”

The mayor said that the only thing holding up the process right now is the fact that the City has to acquire the property from the state. Once that is done, it appears construction is ready to start.

Ambrosino stressed that while the new building will be a rental building, it will not be affordable housing.

“The Beach development is market rate,” he said. “There is no affordable component, never has been and never will be.”

Right now, the parking garage on North Shore Road is entering the finishing touches stage and must be completed by March.

This Friday, City and state officials will be on hand to hold a groundbreaking for the pedestrian plaza component of the project. That part of the public infrastructure portion of the project will include building a large plaza deck over the top of the current parking lot in front of the station. It will also include a cable-stayed walking bridge connecting the station directly to Revere Beach – crossing over the top of Ocean Avenue.

The remaining part of the project, to be completed by DiGangi’s EuroVest, was always supposed to begin in front of Wonderland Station. That was supposed to include a hotel, retail shops and, perhaps, an office building.

It appears that will now come after the rental building on the North Lot, which could very well be completed by 2013.

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