10 Updated Things To Know About Quincy Center
Posted: February 19, 2014
1.) Street-Works is Out, Plans Move Forward.
Mayor Koch has formally terminated the City’s development agreement with Street-Works Development, the designated master developer for the 50 acre project area because it has not met required milestones as part of the master development agreement.
Termination of the agreement means that the City can now begin discussions with interested developers for private parcels in downtown originally under Street-Works control. The process for making available two major public properties – the Hancock lot and the Ross Garage – will be developed in the coming weeks.
Quincy Mutual Fire Insurance Company, a 150-year-old Quincy institution and a major investor in downtown redevelopment, is moving forward with the plan’s first step. The development area is the block including the Granite Trust Bank Building and bordered by Chestnut Street, Cottage Avenue and Hancock Street. The area is sometimes referred to as Block 4 or Merchants Row.
The design work and legal framework for the first step is moving forward.
2.) It’s Business
Street-Works Invested millions of dollars into permitting, land control, design and infrastructure work to date, and their work has created a great foundation. They cannot meet the required benchmarks, and the City is moving on. In a development of this scale and this complex, it is not unusual for developers to change, for plans to be altered, and for obstacles to arise. There isn’t a project of this scale – Assembly Square in Somerville, Westwood Station, the Seaport in Boston, North Station, etc – that has not dealt with similar growing pains.
3.) The Train Left The Station. It’s Happening.
In just the last few years, more than $30 million worth of infrastructure work – all financed privately or through state and federal grants – is either completed or underway. All of this work, including the new Hannon Parkway and the relocation of the Town Brook culvert, were precursors to any kind of private development. Those projects are done, and the Adams Green project – which will once and for all create the public space the resting place of the Adams Presidents and their First Ladies deserve – is underway. All of this coupled with the major permitting and planning stages already completed has led to tremendous progress in just the last few years. Quincy Center is well on its way and a few new hurdles aren’t going to stop it.
4.) The City is Protected
The critical foundation of the development agreement (LDA) was to ensure that the City and its taxpayers are protected. To that end, the agreement worked as designed. All of the infrastructure costs to date have been paid for either privately or by state and federal grants. The agreement required that the private developer pay all costs upfront, and it had a series of more than 40 legal benchmarks that must be met. The agreement was based on a “buy-back” program, in which the City would purchase public improvements – new roads, utilities, etc. – using the new tax money generated by private investment and new buildings. For that to happen, all of the private financing had to be in place and the new buildings producing tax revenue. Absent these conditions, the City had no financial obligation under the agreement.
Street-Works has paid the City more than $1.5 million to date for various milestones and requirements – including paying for all of the City’s permitting consultants. Another several million dollars worth of infrastructure is complete for the first step of the project and paid for privately.
5.) Is There Any Other Financing Relative To Downtown?
The City allocated a total of $40 million for the initial stages of the Hannon Parkway, including the purchase of buildings and relocation of tenants, in 2006 and 2007. That account has also been used for planning and other downtown-related spending, and it is still available for the City’s use. It was approved under what is called the a District Improvement Financing bond – meaning that revenue from new development in downtown will ultimately be used to pay it back. The development agreement had included a $30 million benefit from Street-Works to eliminate that debt, but the termination of the agreement ends this possibility.
6.) Wait, We Actually Moved A River?
Yes. Any redevelopment of Quincy Center has for several decades faced what many thought to be an insurmountable challenge – A culvert of the Town Brook meandering underneath much of the developable area in downtown. Its location largely eliminated the possibility of new construction in much of Quincy Center. Well, the City together with Street-Works, worked through an elaborate permitting and construction process to move that culvert away from prime real estate. In the process, we created a new 200-foot open channel and two new pocket parks that will allow people for the first time in generations to see the Town Brook flow through Quincy Center.
This engineering and environmental triumph, paid for by state grants, is expected to open to the public this spring. It is also eliminated the largest physical, financial and regulatory roadblock to development for much of Quincy Center.
7.) LDA, URDP, ABCs and 123s.
The LDA was the agreement that allows the City to sell its two pieces of developable property – the Hancock Parking lot and the Ross Garage, in return for the master development rights. The Urban Redevelopment Plan is the broader plan that sets the guidelines for development in the area – including the kind of development, design guidelines, and permitting requirements. That plan is the foundation of all of the work to date and is why we can continue to move forward. The LDA may be terminated, but the URDP moves on.
8.) Seeing Is Believing
For those interested in a much more detailed look at what has happened to date, click here access to all of the formal documents related to downtown. For a quick list of the projects funded either privately or through state and federal grants, click here. For a list of the protections Mayor Koch, the City Council, and the legal team negotiated as part of the agreement and why we remain ahead in the game, click here. For the payments that Street-Works has made to the City, click here.
9.) What About All That Other Stuff Going In Quincy Center?
We’re in a once-a-generation transformation of our downtown that includes the private redevelopment, but also includes much, much more. Just take a look at the corridor starting at Southern Artery and heading toward City Hall – the new track facility, the new YMCA, the new Quincy High School, the new park in front of QHS under construction, the historic restoration of the former Coddington School, the preservation of old City Hall. Quincy Center is a much different place than it was just five years ago, and it’s going to be even more different in another five years, and five years after that.
10.) Everything's Going To Be All Right
So yes, we’ve got some obstacles. But no one’s about to pack it up and call it a day. The accomplishments to date, the work completed or underway, the protection the City has, and the tremendous private interest in Quincy over the past several years have the City well-positioned to overcome any hurdles. And in a way that continues to protect taxpayers. That a major private investment partner in Quincy Mutual is now expanding its role and committed to seeing the first step of development through is a major milestone that will lead to substantial progress in the coming months. Stay tuned!