By Josh Resenk
No one in their right mind from Everett would consider keeping the waterfront across from the Encore Casino and Hotel a polluted, industrial wasteland as it is today, as opposed to a Revolution soccer stadium and expanded development of entertainment venues along the Everett shoreline.
However there is something called the law, and an endless set of archaic and convoluted rules and regulations about designated port areas that could impact the redevelopment of this key Everett property.
In a major look at that situation by the Boston Globe in its Monday edition, two significant conflicting elements were brought to light.
First, the sale of the 45 acre site by Constellation, the owner of the former power plant and its towering chimneys, is moving forward as though there are no impediments.
However, the Globe has correctly pointed out that this transformational development opportunity on Boston’s doorstep- with room for labs, office, multifamily housing, stores, and maybe even a hotel or two, could be held back.
“The land that’s up for sale, on the Mystic River in Everett, sits in a designated port area, limiting what could go there to water-dependent industrial operations.”
Translation: None of the advertised uses for the land are allowed there today.
“Not even a marina can be built in a DPA, let alone luxury hotels or housing — or a sports facility, for that matter,” the Globe reported.
With a possible New England Revolution soccer stadium in mind, House leaders last month adopted language in their economic development bill to exempt the Mystic site from DPA restrictions. The Kraft Group has long sought a standalone home for the Revs in Greater Boston, separate from Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, and the Mystic site has been a rumored The Conservation Law Foundation House and Senate could reach an agreement on the broader economic development bill, according to the Globe.
Bottom line, the sale of the waterfront property and its potential reuse depends almost entirely on language in the bill now passing through the legislature, but more importantly, on changing and or altering the DPA’s requirements regarding the new use for the waterfront property and how the regulations must be changed or entirely re-written in this instance for the project to have legs.
While the Globe hedges on this possibility for political purposes – it is apparent that the Coastal Zone Management agency will likely be made to jump through hoops to make this property developable, and that the full power of the governor’s office, the speaker’s office and the senate president’s office will be employed to get this done.
As the Globe reported Monday:
“Another possible path is even more circuitous but could prove beneficial in the long run: rewriting the DPA rules. The system, established in the 1970s, is seen by many as anachronistic. State environmental regulators would include many waterfront stakeholders in that process — environmental groups, property owners, municipal officials. Julie Wormser of the Mystic River Watershed Association sees this as the best possible outcome: a robust regional conversation about updating the DPAs, instead of dealing with them on a piecemeal basis,” said the Globe.
“The fight for the future of this power-plant land might end up not only being about bringing relief to Revs fans who have long hoped for a soccer stadium to call their own. It could end up being about the kind of future we want for the industrial waterfronts in and around Boston, and what it will take to get there,” the Globe concluded.
What the Globe didn’t write is that Massachusetts government will combine with Boston powerbrokers, lawyers, lobbyists, bankers and builders handling the construction and the financing in order to make certain port designations mean less about continuity and more about exceptions when a $1 billion in development is within the realm of possibility.