By Sue Ellen Woodcock
Ward 1 Councillor Joanne McKenna has a childhood memory of hearing the horse racing at Suffolk Downs and now she’s looking forward to the proposed development of the coveted 161 acre site located both in Boston and Revere.
Suffolk Downs was recently purchased by HYM Investment Group with principal Tom O’Brien, the former Boston Development Authority chief.
“We’ve been talking to as many people as we can,” O’Brien said.
He feels strongly that his 25 years in the business and plans on listening carefully to each city’s mayor and city council. He plans on holding forums and being open for the process.
With 42 acres of the property on the Revere side there was some concern about what Revere would get. McKenna said that the developers are looking at anchoring a large business such as Assembly Row did with the Partners Healthcare building in Everett. Another plus is the proximity of two Blue Line stops, Beachmont and Suffolk Downs.
O’Brien acknowledged the zoning regulations being different for each city.
“While the zoning laws are different when it comes to the basics they’re still the same,” O’Brien said. “We see this as all one site.”
On the Revere side of the development, the property is zoned Planned Development District 1 (PDD1). Residential use is only allowed in this district by special permit from the City Council.
O’Brien said they don’t know yet how many apartments, condominiums and retail spots there will be.
“I think Beachmont has been discovered as a hidden gem,” McKenna said. “Thirty percent of the development will be open space and there will be a flow into Beachmont.”
She plans on holding forums and making sure developers stay true to their word.
The closet development to Suffolk Downs is 205 Revere Beach Parkway (the old Shaw’s), a hotel/apartment development that McKenna opposed because the consensus of her neighborhood was against it. McKenna said the Suffolk Downs support for any development must have the consensus of her neighborhood.
“People want this development,” McKenna said. “The people said they wanted an Assembly Row and now they could be getting what they asked for.”
In her meetings about the Suffolk Downs development, McKenna is asking for three things from the developers. First, added reconstruction of Donnelly Square to make it traffic and pedestrian friendly. Second, she like to get the buses off upper Winthrop Avenue. Third, as also the president of the Friends of Belle Isle Marsh, McKenna wants to make sure everything is environmentally sound and protective of the marsh.
As for the gas farm bordering the property, McKenna said she knows of no plans but she recalled that during the casino discussions they talked about bringing large trees in to block the view of the tanks.