Bay City gains support from local lawmakers

US Rep. Stephen Lynch and local lawmakers have registered their support for the multibillion “Dorchester Bay City” development, which would create a million square feet of new, mixed-used development on the former Bayside Expo Center property and surrounding parcels.

The project has been the subject of hundreds of meetings over the last several years, as the developer, Accordia Partners, has sought various approvals. The overall plan remains under review by the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA), and the developers have said they hope to have a vote by this summer.

Another public meeting is set for Wed., April 19, at 6 p.m.

Lynch, in a support letter included with other publicly posted comments on the BPDA’s website, noted that there will be retail and restaurant space, and that the developers have committed $10 million to the Massachusetts Affordable Housing Alliance to be set aside to help with down payments for first-time homebuyers. The new site also would create 20 acres of green space.

“When fully built, Dorchester Bay City will be one of the largest minority-led developments in the country,” Lynch said.

The proposal envelopes 36 acres and includes the former Bayside Expo site, which is owned by the University of Massachusetts and leased to the developers; 180 Mt. Vernon Street, which is the location of the Boston Teachers Union headquarters; and 2 Morrissey, the Santander office building. The buildout, which would be done over the coming decades, is set to bring 2,000 residential units to the area, with 20 percent set aside as affordable housing.

Two of the state lawmakers who represent the area, Reps. Dan Hunt of Dorchester and David Biele of South Boston, have also registered their support of Accordia’s plan, noting that the proposal has the “potential to unlock” projects like “permanent solutions to Kosciuszko Circle; improvements to the JFK/UMASS Red Line Station; improvements along Dorchester Avenue to Columbia Point; investments along Morrissey Boulevard; and improved connections to Day Boulevard.”

They added: “These infrastructure investments will help bridge the disconnect between Columbia Point, Savin Hill, Dorchester Bay, South Boston, and the nearby Dorchester Shores reservation, while increasing connections for residents to access the waterfront.”
In their most recent version of the proposal, the developers added 2.2. acres of green space while removing one building. That plan also calls for positioning flood protection measures between the site and Moakley Park.

“Creating an unbroken line of flood defense is critical to protecting not only the site but also the neighborhood from the effects of sea level rise and coastal storm flooding,” wrote Katherine Abbott, president and CEO of the advocacy group Boston Harbor Now.

Jared Staley, a cultural planning project manager with the Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture, wrote in on behalf of his department, saying they’ve reviewed the Dorchester Bay City project’s “cultural spaces,” and suggesting additional changes.

“As presented, civic and cultural space accounts for .5 percent of the total project square footage and 11 percent of all ground floor commercial/retail space, an amount that is insufficient given the size, location, and complexity of the project.”

The Black Economic Council of Massachusetts included a letter in support, saying they are “highly encouraged by the commitments made by the project to collaborate with diverse partners and implement equity goals on issues like job training, infrastructure development, and environmental sustainability.”

Grace Cotter Regan, the president of neighboring Boston College High School, has also voiced support for the Bay City plan.

But others said it has too many towering buildings and could cause traffic issues. Local resident Sean McKee wrote to the BPDA, “While I understand the need for more housing in the City of Boston, I do feel this project is just too large for the area. Traffic is already a mess, and despite what developers say, there will be a very large amount of cars moving in, along with an overwhelming amount of people.”

Another local resident, Emilia Rainwalker, also wrote in to oppose the plan, saying she was “tired of housing being priced beyond my means and the means of so many good residents.” There aren’t enough affordable units in this plan, she told the BPDA.

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