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City Council approves Suffolk Downs redevelopment

Assessor: Fiscal 2019 tax rate drops 6.5 percent

By Tara Vocino

From left to right, Assessors John Verrengia, Dana Brangiforte and Mathew McGrath set a proposed tax rate for FY 2019 and brought their findings before the City Council on Monday night. (Advocate photo by Tara Vocino)

The City Council, by a 10-1 vote, granted a special permit for the Suffolk Downs Site, which is a multiphase, mixed-use 161-acre development at 425 William F. McClellan Highway, at City Hall on Monday night.

According to The HYM Investment Group, LLC Founding Partner/Managing Director Thomas O’Brien, the site will feature 2.46 million square feet of office/lab space, which will provide up to 15,000 full-time jobs and up to 6,900 construction jobs in Revere. It will also include a 35,000 square foot Innovation Center and 250,000 square feet of ground floor retail, more than 500,000 square feet of diverse street front retail, and 10 percent commitment to local business owners. Hotel buildings will encompass 130,000 square feet of space. Residential buildings will make up 2.84 million square feet, including 288 units for senior housing. An outdoor performance theater will serve as a stormwater basin for a projected 100-year period.

On Monday, the City Council granted the relief requested by the petitioner, subject to the findings and conditions of the Project Review Board.

Phase 1 will be a hotel, an innovation center, and retail, while the other three phases will be commercial and retail with the fourth phase being 50 percent of each. The site itself will be 161 acres, according to O’Brien. Phase 1 is slated to be completed by 2021, and the site is anticipated to be built by 2038.

Councillor-at-Large Dan Rizzo was the only dissenting vote. City Clerk Ashley Melnik said Tuesday afternoon that a two-thirds vote is required for passage of zoning matters and special permits. Eight councillors have to vote in the affirmative for the special permit to pass, according to Melnik.

Rizzo explained why he voted against the project after the meeting. “I would have preferred to see the project voted on a phase-by-phase basis,” Rizzo said after the meeting. “The organizers [HYM] are well respected, and rightfully so, but nothing says they’ll still be here in 20 years.”

Rizzo was quick to note that the project will be beautiful, but he believes that it’s not in the best interests of the city. He added the city is already overrun with upcoming apartments, and he thinks that Revere doesn’t need an additional 3,000 apartments built for this project.

O’Brien replied that a large percentage of apartments (approximately 7,000) will be built on the secondary Boston project location, adding that he and his team have been direct and honest from the outset. “Everything is in writing in front of you, including a 39-page document on legal fees,” O’Brien said to Rizzo. “We have aspirations to take the site and make it into something special. Let us join hands with you.”

After the vote was passed, O’Brien reacted to Rizzo’s vote. He said at the end of the day, the majority rules, and that the project passed with an overwhelming vote with only one opposition. “Tonight is a great milestone,” O’Brien said of the results. “I am very pleased that the vast majority approved the project to move forward with the design.”

O’Brien said it will take approximately 10 months to do the drawings before any construction can be done. He added that the project will cost billions of dollars, but it will generate approximately $43 million in Revere gross tax revenue annually.

Also, in a separate interview, Revere’s Director of Economic Development, Bob O’Brien, said the project’s passage is a major step forward for the benefit of community development. “It was a lengthy, systematic process,” Bob O’Brien said. “Tonight is our most significant vote thus far, and we had an overwhelming positive vote.”

In response to Rizzo’s concern, Bob O’Brien said they made it clear that there would be that many apartments from the beginning. “Our residential development was consistent from the beginning,” Bob O’Brien said. “We made it clear that apartments have to be part of mixed-use development, including hotels and retail.”

During the meeting, Councillor-at-Large George Rotondo, who ultimately voted for the project, was concerned about the term “mitigation,” adding that it should be called “conditions.” “It’s an appealing project, but when every developer builds fences, houses or cement sidewalks, it’s called ‘conditions,’” Rotondo said. “It’s a big problem.”

Tom O’Brien replied to Rotondo that it’s just terminology and that a strong brand, high-end hotel along with restaurants, small shops, apartments and landscape will build community for Revere.

 

Proposed fiscal 2019 tax rate set

In other news, the proposed Fiscal 2019 residential tax rate was set Monday at $12.11 per thousand dollars, and for commercial properties, it was set at a proposed $23.68 per thousand dollars, according to Board of Assessors Chairman Dana Brangiforte. Brangiforte said the residential tax rate was $12.96, and the commercial tax rate was $25.36 in Fiscal 2018.

He said that although the tax rate decreased, the assessed values increased an average of 10 percent for a single-family home, or $130 tax dollars; and for a two-family, 14.5 percent, or an increase of $350. Apartments’ assessed value would increase by 20 percent, according to Brangiforte.

He said HYM will increase the commercial and residential tax base, but that is in the preliminary stages since the project was just approved at the City Council meeting end that night.

 

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