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2022 Revere Year in Review

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A Renaissance of development, New High School, and Return of WWII Hero McMackin

  For Revere, 2022 was a year of major strides in the city’s ongoing renaissance. Major development projects moved forward, promising much for the city’s future, while city officials worked to preserve the city’s character and strengthen the community with arts and recreation facilities.

  In January, the City Council voted to build a new high school on the site of the former Wonderland Greyhound Racing Park. Councillors were concerned with Wonderland’s $30 million price tag and the fact that the city would be losing the tax revenue if the track were converted to a residential and commercial use. But Revere is united behind the goal to build a new, sorely needed, school, so Wonderland it was.

  The School Building Committee spent the rest of 2022 meeting the Massachusetts School Building Authority’s deadlines for submission of studies and information about the project. But that process was interrupted in December when City Councillors chose not to vote to send the project’s schematic design and preliminary budget to the MSBA. In January, the cost of the new school was believed to be $378 million. But in a December presentation for the City Council, the new cost of $499 million was attached to the project.

  Councillors were concerned about the jump in costs and wanted to hear from Chief Financial Officer Richard Viscay about the city’s plan to pay for the project and the impact on taxpayers. School officials warned that delaying the submission of the design to the MSBA would knock the project off schedule and delay the opening of the new building, which was planned for September 2027. But councillors were adamant.

  “We’re not doing anyone any favors if we put the city into receivership for a new school,” said Councillor-at-Large Dan Rizzo.

Suffolk Downs

  In May, Mayor Brian Arrigo and Boston elected officials joined leaders from The HYM Investment Group, Cathexis and National Real Estate Advisors, with shovels in hand, to officially break ground on the massive redevelopment plan at Suffolk Downs racetrack. The mixed-use development will deliver 10,000 apartments and condos, 5.2 million square feet of life science and commercial office space, 450,000 square feet of retail and civic spaces and 40 acres of parks and open space. That makes the Suffolk Downs makeover the largest redevelopment project in the history of the state.

  While it’s difficult to know exactly how such a huge development will impact the city, its schools and services, Arrigo is looking at the positive numbers and predictions. The project is expected to bring 22,000 laboratory, manufacturing and retail jobs as well as 18,000 construction jobs over the next 20 years. Revere leaders see Suffolk Downs as a huge step forward for the city’s economic development and an opportunity to create a new neighborhood that connects Revere and East Boston.

New days ahead for McMackin Field

  Mayor Brian Arrigo announced in November that Revere had acquired ownership of McMackin Park, a Little League Field that had been shut down in 2013 and left to become an overgrown mess. The park is named for local World War II hero Charles McMackin, a bombardier who died when his plane was shot down in Romania in August 1943.

  The park was built in 1951 with all the bells and whistles Little Leaguers loved, such as batting cages, dugouts, lighting, and a concession stand. Everybody wanted to plat at McMackin, which in its heyday was known as Little Fenway.

  But McMackin also had troubles. The field was known for flooding, and games couldn’t be played there.

  For several years, ballplayers, young and old, called for the rehabilitation of McMackin Field, but the park was owned by Revere Little League and the city could not intervene with private property. But Arrigo, who had his eye on McMackin Field, was able to negotiate a transfer of ownership to Revere. Now plans are in the works for infrastructure repairs to bring McMackin Park back to life.


Affordable Housing

  Over the summer, the City Council approved an ordinance creating the Affordable Housing Trust Fund to create and protect affordable housing units in Revere. Councillors also voted to approve Mayor Arrigo’s request for $100,000 in seed money for the new fund.

  Board members of the trust fund have been diving into details presented by the city’s Chief of Planning and Community Development, Tom Skwierawski, whose figures showed that now there is only one affordable housing unit available for seven people who need the help. The board has also been exploring different strategies for creating affordable housing that best fit Revere’s resources and needs.

  Mayor Arrigo proposed an inclusionary zoning ordinance that would require developers with a plan for multifamily housing of six or more units to set aside 12 percent of the total units as affordable housing. In exchange for adding to the affordable housing stock, developers would see a reduction in the city’s parking requirements, streamlined dimensional requirements for front and rear yards and floor area ratios and a waiver of certain permit fees.

  But the City Council shot down Arrigo’s proposal, fearing that it would open the door to a wave of new development in the city’s already densely packed neighborhoods.

  “So now we are going to take the neighborhoods that are surviving and not having parking issues right now and we’re going to create some,” said Councillor-at-Large Dan Rizzo. “I could not be any more against this than I am.”

  The Affordable Housing Trust Fund Board has a range of other options to consider, such as deed restricted housing that keeps rents affordable and new construction on underutilized city property.

Water’s Edge fire

  Late in June, a three-alarm fire broke out on an 11th floor deck at the Water’s Edge apartment complex on Ocean Avenue. Although no serious injuries were reported, there were some heroic rescues by Revere Firefighters and state troopers. Roughly two weeks later, city inspectors condemned the apartment building as in serious decline and unfit for human habitation. Inspectors said the fire and water damage were not the only problems. The building’s owner, Carabetta Properties, had failed to keep the building up to code and had about $1 million in outstanding bills since 2004.

  As a result of the fire, 103 people, including small children, were displaced and left homeless. So, the city took Carabetta Properties to court and scored a victory for tenants who had been living in cars and had other unacceptable conditions.

  The court found that while Water’s Edge did not cause the fire, there was evidence that damage could have been mitigated had Carabetta Properties maintained its fire systems in accordance with code requirements. The court granted an injunction and ordered Water’s Edge to provide either hotel accommodations with kitchen facilities or an alternative temporary apartment in a habitable unit in the Water’s Edge complex.

Revere says goodbye to a maverick

  The city lost one of its most committed and passionate advocates in September when Councillor-at-Large George Rotondo, 55, died unexpectantly on Sept. 11.

  Always straightforward, plain spoken and maybe a little loud, Rotondo was elected three times as Ward 4 Councillor and five times as Councillor-at-Large. Rotondo often brought his experience and expertise as a professional certified nurse to City Council discussions.

  City Council President Gerry Visconti called for a moment of silence at the City Council meeting following the news of Rotondo’s death. “We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Councillor George Rotondo. He was a colleague, a neighbor and a dear friend,” said Visconti, who added that Rotundo served the city and the council for more than 14 years in the best way he knew how.

  Visconti described Rotondo as a councillor who wasn’t afraid of voicing his opinion on difficult issues.

  “The conversations we will be having in these Chambers moving forward will not be the same without him,” said Visconti.

CITY COUNCIL LEADERS: New City Council Vice President Richard Serino (left) and President Gerry Visconti were sworn in during an inaugural ceremony at City Hall in January. (Advocate file photo)
Wonderland Site-2
In January, the City Council followed the School Committee and School Building Committee in approving the 30-plus-acre former Wonderland dog park property as the site of a new Revere High School.
Rose Napolitano – “Mrs. Revere” – a longtime community activist, pictured with her sons, had a bench dedicated in her honor outside the Revere Public library on her 90th birthday.
John Powers won a special election in July, defeating Linda Santos Rosa and Ron Clark, returning to his long-held Ward 5 City Council seat. Powers was defeated previously by Al Fiore, who resigned due to health issues.
George J. Rotondo, Jr
The city mourned the loss of two longtime political stalwarts: former School Committeewoman Ann Raponi in August, and current Councillor-at-Large George Rotondo in September.
Revere and area firefighters battled a three-alarm fire at a 370 Ocean Ave. high-rise off Revere Beach. The fire was on an 11th floor balcony, and several residents had to be evacuated. The fire would leave residents homeless – leaving the city to condemn the building.
First Lady Daveen Arrigo is shown with family friends – Jennifer and Juanita Haas, daughter and wife, respectively, of the late mayor and city councilor Bob Haas – and Mayor Brian Arrigo during the State of the City Address.
Ann M. Raponi
The city mourned the loss of two longtime political stalwarts: former School Committeewoman Ann Raponi in August, and current Councillor-at-Large George Rotondo in September.
Amaya Exterior
National Real Estate Advisors, Cathexis and HYM secured a $150M construction loan for a massive Suffolk Downs redevelopment in Revere and East Boston.
The hearse carrying the remains of Staff Sgt. Charles G. McMackin arrives at City Hall.

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