We will be proposing a series of zoning changes to the downtown district to the City Council tonight, marking another step forward in our plans for a new Quincy Center.
The most notable change will allow the Planning Board to issue a special permit for buildings as high as 20 stories, five stories more than the current regulations. Other changes, including giving the Planning Board the authority over parking issues in Quincy Center, are meant largely to match our zoning code with our Urban Renewal Plan, which is the framework guiding the redevelopment downtown.
We believe the additional height makes the project economically viable and ultimately creates more tax revenue. Quincy Center is exactly where we want taller buildings, and any 20-story buildings included in the plan will be centralized in the district, away from any nearby neighborhoods. And keep in mind, the new law would only give the Planning Board the authority to issue a special permit, not guarantee anything by right.
There will be much, much more discussion on the topic of financing this project in the months ahead, but here’s a quick primer on the topic.
The public investment in this project — expected to be about $200 million — is called “project-based,” meaning essentially that the fruits of the private development end up paying for the public portion — the streets, the sidewalks, the new infrastructure, etc.
This is by no means a traditional public investment in which the City goes out and borrows money out front and is left with all the risk. In this case, the developer will take the primary risk with the City’s interests protected until the results of the project — and the new tax growth and other revenue — become reality.
We have several mechanisms in place to make this happen, and the exact formula for how it will work is what the City’s team is now negotiating with Street-Works.
Like we’ve said before, the model we are working on is nothing that Street-Works has not done before. And I suggest perusing www.westhartford.org, for more detail on how that project was financed.
Preliminary work began today on the McGrath Highway portion of the Concourse, which will entail a complete overhaul of the road between Southern Artery and Washington Street into a pedestrian-friendly boulevard.
The Quincy Police and our Traffic Department will monitor the project daily, and we are working to minimize disruptions. There will not be any detours through the duration of construction, but lanes will be reduced.
Residents with any questions can call 617-376-1902.
It is great to see real progress on this vital roadway, and I thank everyone who has played a role in getting this long-planned project finally off the ground.
Why do we need to build the Quincy Center Concourse?
We heard it at almost every coffee hour during our 2007 campaign, and we still hear it on a regular basis at public meetings and from visitors to the office. Of all the issues surrounding the redevelopment of downtown over the years, it is easily the most frequent question.
The questions – and the “Road to Nowhere” jokes — are understandable, if for no other reason than the length of time the project has been on the drawing board. But make no mistake, this connection between Burgin Parkway and Southern Artery is absolutely vital. The reasons are two-fold:
First and foremost, we need an east-west connection through Quincy Center for traffic purposes, regardless of any potential development opportunities. Throughout the City, our north-to-south roads are fairly adequate, but the same cannot be said for roads running east-to-west. Today’s current traffic in and around Quincy Center is proof positive of this fact.
With a new road essentially connecting the Expressway to Route 3A, it will eliminate a substantial amount of the bottlneck in the heart of Quincy Center and make it much, much easier for folks from the Neck or Merrymount, or Quincy Point to get through the Center on their way to and from work. It will essentially eliminate the confusing cluster of Washington, Temple, Granite and Hancock Streets because drivers will no longer need to navigate that area to get through the Center.
Secondly, the road is very much an economic engine. As Richard Heapes, one of the founders of our partners with Street-Works, said during one of the recent public meetings: The Concourse is not the road to nowhere, it is the road to everywhere.
The kind of private investment we are working to attract to Quincy needs exactly this kind of infrastructure work to become reality. It provides the template for just about all the development we hope to see in the area over the next several years. Without it, Quincy Center simply cannot reach its maximum value.
We will be taking the vision and preliminary plans on the road with a series of about 20 public meetings over the next two months. We will get the full schedule out to The Ledger as soon as all the details are finalized, but the first meeting will be held with the Merrymount Neighborhood Association at 7 p.m. next Wednesday (March 25) at the Merrymount School.
The Street-Works and administration teams will be there to detail progress to date. More importantly, we will be there to listen to you, your concerns, your thoughts and to answer your questions.
As mentioned in my first post, this will be the most extensive public process for any project in Quincy history, and it is exciting to be talking about something so positive considering these difficult times.
In addition to meetings with individual neighborhood groups, we will be co-sponsoring general meetings with City Councilors in all six wards throughout April in May.
Stay tuned for all the details.
If nothing else, the redevelopment plan for downtown Quincy is optimistic.
Let me count the ways:
1. That there’s enough demand for a dozen new office buildings, retail stores, full-priced apartments/condos and parking garage fees to rival those in Boston.
2. That the roadways designed to support this colossus are adequate to handle the anticipated deliveries, traffic and pedestrian flow.
3. That real estate taxes can continue to increase by $600 per household per year.
Indeed, the artist’s rendering is beautiful and much more attractive than what’s there now. But drawings aren’t real life and can’t airbrush away that we are in (or on the verge of) a worldwide depression, despite the best efforts of President Obama to magic it away.
This notwithstanding, the proposed project might be an asset to the city, but should be regarded as a goal – a master blueprint – with a completion date of perhaps 2025, the 400th anniversary of the Settlement at Mount Wollaston by Captain Wollaston.
I think the city missed the boat. We don’t need any more condos, apartments or restaurants.
What we need are stores to shop in.
What would be good is something like Derby Street Shoppes in Hingham.
Close down Hancock Street. You could have stores on both sides, and there would be plenty of parking in back.
First, I want to extend my thanks to The Patriot Ledger for the opportunity to discuss this historic project on its Develop Quincy blog, and more importantly, for the invaluable public service The Ledger has provided over the last several years through its extensive coverage of downtown Quincy.
I hope everyone found this week’s introduction to the overall vision of the plan, our team, and the team from Street-Works Development informative and exciting. Countless hours of work by many people allowed us to reach this point, but I stress that this is only the beginning. We have said this project will be the largest private investment in Quincy history, and by the same token, this will be the most extensive public process for any project in Quincy history. It starts now.
A major part of that process is listening directly to you, our residents. This is your downtown, and we want to hear your ideas, your concerns, and help answer any questions you may have. I hope this forum will be a valuable tool to that end, and we are looking forward to sharing our perspective here as well.
I’ll start with a general question we’ve heard a few times since beginning the conversation on downtown: How can we pull off a development plan of this scale in the kind of economic climate our City and nation now face?
We believe firmly that opportunities are often born from crisis, and this plan is a perfect example. We are looking at $1 billion in private investment, thousands of construction jobs, thousands of permanent jobs, and millions of dollars of new tax growth - the single most important factor in stabilizing taxes for our homeowners. Simply put, this is Quincy’s economic stimulus plan.
With the planning process beginning now, our financial advisors, the Street-Works team, and our independent analysts are all bullish that this project will be financed when it is ready to hit the market. Consider the $15 million Street-Works has already directly invested in downtown coupled with its prior experience in capitalizing projects of this scale as two important factors.
We will have more details as the process moves forward in coming months, but I can say that everyone involved to date, especially our administration, is confident in the future of this project and the future of Quincy Center.
I look forward to continuing the conversation, and please feel free to contact me directly at the office 376-1990 or via e-mail on this or any other matter.
Street-Works’s plan includes more green space, wider sidewalks and a mix of retail, residential and office development. While Hancock Street would be rerouted to make it more pedestrian-friendly, other, deeply rooted elements in the city – like the Church of the Presidents, the cemetery and City Hhall – have been incorporated into the design. Leave your comments below…..
1.) New public space and walkway
2.) New development, concourse go hand in hand
Graphics by Bob Monahan/The Patriot Ledger
We’ve seen a lot of ambitious plans for reshaping down Quincy over the years. What do you think of this one? What do you like? What do you hate? What else would you like to see? Do you think this plan has a chance of succeeding when so many others have fallen short? (We have turned off commenting on our DQ stories in hopes of creating some intelligent discussion here. Appropriate comments left on stories before they were closed have been reposted here. Comments do not go up until an editor has reviewed them.)