Suffolk Downs Owner says Amazon Could Be Good Fit for Racetrack

September 29, 2017
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By John Lynds

Tom O’Brien’s group, HYM Investment Group, LLC, is all in on trying to attract Seattle-based Amazon second headquarters (HQ2) to the 161-acre Suffolk Downs property his group purchased in the spring.

At a council meeting in neighboring Revere, which shares the Suffolk Downs site with East Boston, O’Brien told council members that a company like Amazon would be a ‘good fit’ for Suffolk Downs and the vision HYM has for the extremely large parcel.

“We think the site works, and we think it has a lot of what Amazon is looking for. Suffolk Downs fits all the factors Amazon is looking for,” said O’Brien.

Amazon announced a deadline of October 19 for interested parties to submit bids to the company. If O’Brien and HYM win the bid it could mean an economic boon for East and Revere as the company’s HQ2 development would bring 50,000 full time jobs to the area.

O’Brien said he and his team are working quickly to get a proposal to Amazon and added that he thinks Suffolk Downs is the right place.

“And I’m going to fight for it,” he said.

Amazon is planning roughly an eight million square fee. campus possibly spread over several areas with a main campus.

O’Brien said Suffolk Downs would be a benefit to Amazon’s plans because the parcel includes size, an international airport, a major highway, two Blue Line stops, and bus routes. He also stressed that even though 60 percent of the property is in Boston that he sees the area as one site.

“We have a great opportunity to work with transit,” O’Brien said. “We have two stations and an opportunity to bring people to the site.”

In May, O’Brien sat down with the East Boston Times and laid out his vision for Suffolk Downs.

As other large development just outside the city limits, like Assembly Row in Somerville, coming online O’Brien felt HYM could use that type of development as a template but improve and expand on it at the Suffolk Downs site.

“Assemble Row became a pretty good template for what we are shooting for,” said O’Brien at the time. “We have spent the last couple of months spending a lot of time with community leaders and elected officials (in both East Boston and Revere) and after about fifty different meetings with all kinds of folks the type of feedback we got, and everyone has literally said to us, ‘if you can recreate something like Assemble Row…if you can replicate that it would be a good thing. So that’s really out plan.”

O’Brien said HYM’s vision for the site is a large, mixed-use development with retail, entertainment, restaurants and residential.

“If we get the retail right on the first floor levels with a good mix of restaurants and shops, build well designed, relatively affordable units above the retail space and create a grid of streets so people who live, shop and eat there have a real feeling that its a community I think it will be a winner.”

O’Brien said that he has spent a lot of time walking the site and wants to create a development that is not isolated like other large scale development but feels more like part of the East Boston and Revere communities.

And like Assembly Row who attracted Partners Health Care as an anchor business on the site, Amazon could be a good anchor business here according Eastie’s elected officials.

“The prospect of Amazon locating HQ2 at Suffolk Downs provides an interesting economic opportunity. Still, ensuring the needs of East Boston and surrounding communities remains the top priority,” said Rep. Adrian Madaro and Sen Joseph Boncore in a joint statement. “As our neighborhood continues to develop, it only emphasizes the need for a modern transportation and housing system.  Not only do investments in infrastructure, like expanded blue line access and transit oriented housing developments, connect Suffolk Downs to a skilled workforce, but it protects the economic integrity of the whole East Boston community.”

Mayor Martin Walsh said he and the city have been hearing from many people across Boston, from developers to business leaders to academics to residents, and discussing what would be the best fit for Boston and its residents.

Sue Ellen Woodcock also contributed to this story

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