BCEC expansion | Seaport

tangent

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^^correct. they ran every public meeting for the rezoning of 2 lots.
It was like the rest of the City didn't exist.
Same for Parcel 15, 1 Bromfield St, etc......
This methodology for growing a City is fatally flawed.
There is virtually no one that will permit development above 140' anywhere without some incident, or legal threat.
Cry me a river... the process is designed for shaking down rich people to fund machine politics. It is set up as an adversarial system so lawyers, consultants and influencers get paid and funnel money back to the party who in turn create the system in such a way as to invite conflict. They want rich people fighting rich people.

If no one cares the party sends out people to gin up fake opposition so they can shake down more rich people.

Massachusetts is deeply deeply corrupt.
 

odurandina

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Massachusetts is deeply deeply corrupt.
It's incredible. People on this forum sometimes understate the (total) institutional corruption built into the process of permitting in Boston + nimbyism + the regulatory process of the State. Good projects not being approved, appropriate height (feasibility) constrained or slashed drastically, often followed by delays, and finally, developers walking away claiming "market conditions, etc, etc...." Too many projects (outside the Seaport) are left floundering near the margins by a corrupt process (to begin).
 
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George_Apley

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Jesus Christ. Masspoli and US urban politics are far less corrupt than it used to be, and Boston is no more corrupt than comparable US cities. Please please PLEASE give me an example of a major city where wheeling and dealing is not a major factor in urban development. We have a US attorney actively seeking out corruption to the point of indicting mid-level city officials for extortion for requiring union labor at a public event. If you think it's THAT BAD call Andrew Lelling's office or stfu.

Just because projects aren't being approved doesn't mean "ZOMG KORRUPTION", often it means that we have a very multi-layered and complex system which allows a LOT of input from many different parties, including negatively-biased residents. This complex system was put into place by the way because of massive government overreach with redevelopment in the past that led to electoral consequences. Is such a complex system opaque enough that some corruption can occur? Absolutely. But I'd hazard that most held up projects are not because of public corruption.

Most of the international cities putting up large towers are deeply corrupt, btw.
 
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odurandina

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^^Kevin White survived his corruption probe. By the time his term ended, he'd pretty much gotten his fill as mayor. Maybe he felt his time of influence to be at an end. I remember watching his speech live on TV announcing he wouldn't seek another term. We'd have had 10 more 600' towers, and 10 more 520'ers if he coulda hung around another 8 years. :)
 
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Vagabond

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I'm just struggling to see the benefit of closing and selling one facility to fund construction on another. Shouldn't closing the Hynes leave the BCEC with zero city competition and boost it's revenue even more? The business case for expansion using up front capital from a sale instead of through bonds just isn't ringing for me.

Another project that could very well use the upfront capital and benefit everyone veers slightly into the Crazy Transit-Pitches territory...

I know there's been tons of discussion around the benefit of connecting the Seaport to downtown. One of the biggest economic benefits is the glut of hotels around the Hynes getting access to the BCEC through a Green line extension. Hypothetically - how much would a Boylston-Essex connector cost to get a tunnel to the south-station SL tunnel? Is the value of the Hynes sale an order of magnitude different than the tunnel and the start of an expansion?

From the perspective of the BCEC (since that's the thread we're in), does the business case for improving hotel access to a huge government-owned convention center justify transit investment?
 

tangent

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Jesus Christ. Masspoli and US urban politics is far less corrupt than it used to be, and no more corrupt than comparable US cities. Please please PLEASE give me an example of a major city where wheeling and dealing is not a major factor in urban development. We have a US attorney actively seeking out corruption to the point of indicting mid-level city officials for extortion for requiring union labor at a public event. If you think it's THAT BAD call Andrew Lelling's office or stfu.

Just because projects aren't being approved doesn't mean "ZOMG KORRUPTION", often it means that we have a very multi-layered and complex system which allows a LOT of input from many different parties, including negatively-biased residents. This complex system was put into place by the way because of massive government overreach with redevelopment in the past that led to electoral consequences. Is such a complex system opaque enough that some corruption can occur? Absolutely. But I'd hazard that most held up projects are not because of public corruption.

Most of the international cities putting up large towers are deeply corrupt, btw.

Wheeling and dealing in the private sector is the free market at work... wheeling and dealing with the law and with public resources undermines the rule of law, undermines our democratic form of government and is a threat to Liberty. That said yes, there is corruption wherever there are people. Cities just happen to have a lot of money and a lot of people. Massachusetts has made corruption a bit of science though.

My point was really just that people cry about NIMBYs, but they are an intentional part of the design of a corrupt system and not some tangential emergent property. If you want to eliminate NIMBYism then embrace the rule of law instead of creating laws that encourage the rule of mobs and corrupt officials... Set up your zoning regulations and stick with them and don't make every project have to go before X number of committees with "the right lawyers"... who are adept at funneling money to the right committee members or staff or donate to the party or the unions or however the bribe money is laundered these days... otherwise NIMBYs are just doing their jobs in a effed up system.

And for the most part NIMBYism is on the side of the law in that these projects require a political process to overcome the legal restrictions that were put in place to block development unless it receives political support because of the aforementioned corrupt system. If you don't want every project to be a political campaign then change the laws to actually mean what they say and cut the lawyers and influencers and politicians out of the execution of the laws.
 

tangent

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I'm just struggling to see the benefit of closing and selling one facility to fund construction on another.

Partially fund construction of a new facility... With 8% net loss in floor space which will undoubtedly lead to a loss in convention revenue. Not to mention the loss from the potential gap between sale of the Hynes and opening the new expansion. Those are the bottom line numbers for me to say this deal, whatever this secret deal is, is a bad deal (by potentially hundreds of millions of dollars) unless it fully funds the expansion and it results in no net loss in floor space. Otherwise continue on as-is and make the very affordable repairs that are needed at the Hynes.
 

JumboBuc

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Partially fund construction of a new facility... With 8% net loss in floor space which will undoubtedly lead to a loss in convention revenue. Not to mention the loss from the potential gap between sale of the Hynes and opening the new expansion. Those are the bottom line numbers for me to say this deal, whatever this secret deal is, is a bad deal (by potentially hundreds of millions of dollars) unless it fully funds the expansion and it results in no net loss in floor space. Otherwise continue on as-is and make the very affordable repairs that are needed at the Hynes.
The idea here is that some floor space will be lost on the net but the new and existing space will all be in one location and can be more efficiently used and managed. Thus floor space goes down by 8%, but costs go down by significantly more than 8% and revenue goes down by significantly less than 8% (and possibly even up). The Hynes currently operates well below capacity, so there isn't a direct one-to-one link there between floor space and revenue.

I don't have enough information / haven't thought about it enough to put my enthusiastic stamp of approval on the whole plan, but I certainly understand the logic behind it.

One of my worries is that Baker and the MCCA might be overvaluing the Hynes. Decking projects are complicated, and we've seen examples of Baker and company overestimating the private value of real estate that has complications (e.g., the whole failed Veolia plant sale plan on Kneeland Street). Low-rise wide-open convention floor space seems like a pretty good application of decking.
 
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JeffDowntown

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The idea here is that some floor space will be lost on the net but the new and existing space will all be in one location and can be more efficiently used and managed. Thus floor space goes down by 8%, but costs go down by significantly more than 8% and revenue goes down by significantly less than 8% (and possibly even up). The Hynes currently operates well below capacity, so there isn't a direct one-to-one link there between floor space and revenue.

I don't have enough information / haven't thought about it enough to put my enthusiastic stamp of approval on the whole plan, but I certainly understand the logic behind it.

One of my worries is that Baker and the MCCA might be overvaluing the Hynes. Decking projects are complicated, and we've seen examples of Baker and company overestimating the private value of real estate that has complications (e.g., the whole failed Veolia plant sale plan on Kneeland Street). Low-rise wide-open convention floor space seems like a pretty good application of decking.
I share your concern about overestimating the value.

But there are a couple of big pluses for the Hynes site:

1) It has about the highest FAA permissible height rating in the city, 975 ft. across the site.

2) There is substantial terra firma under the large building footprint, both on the Boylston Street frontage (small) and the Sheraton Boston side (significant). It is not all air rights.
 

JumboBuc

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I share your concern about overestimating the value.

But there are a couple of big pluses for the Hynes site:

1) It has about the highest FAA permissible height rating in the city, 975 ft. across the site.

2) There is substantial terra firma under the large building footprint, both on the Boylston Street frontage (small) and the Sheraton Boston side (significant). It is not all air rights.
Agreed, the site has a lot of terra firma and that's where the value is (especially the part next to the Sheraton along Dalton). But for the roughly 1/3 of the site that is decked, convention center space seems like it would be right up there as a best possible use. I could imagine a developer keeping the exhibit space largely as is (or converting it to retail) and basically building up on top of it in the terra firma spots while keeping the existing building largely in tact basically as a podium. I'm envisioning something kind of like what we're seeing at the Government Center Garage project.

I'd also love to see the powers-that-be get development pre-approval before a sale is made. Mock up a building envelope (of even a menu of options of building envelopes), get it pre-approved for development, and then put that approved plan out to bid. This would both lead to a much higher sale price (as it would minimize developer risk) and align incentives. If the Commonwealth wants a big return, then the City has to approve height and density. And if the City won't approve height and density, then the Commonwealth would be the one who pays the price.
 

odurandina

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Wheeling and dealing in the private sector is the free market at work... wheeling and dealing with the law and with public resources undermines the rule of law, undermines our democratic form of government and is a threat to Liberty. That said yes, there is corruption wherever there are people. Cities just happen to have a lot of money and a lot of people. Massachusetts has made corruption a bit of science though.
i hear about things going on at the state regulatory level that are pretty crazy.
Stuff that doesn't get in the papers, and will never be discussed on this site.
Don't think this level of insanity happens in LA, or Miami, but maybe Chicago or NYC.
i'm quite naive about it all.

I could imagine a developer keeping the exhibit space largely as is (or converting it to retail) and basically building up on top of it in the terra firma spots while keeping the existing building largely in tact basically as a podium.
Yup.
 
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George_Apley

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Wheeling and dealing in the private sector is the free market at work... wheeling and dealing with the law and with public resources undermines the rule of law, undermines our democratic form of government and is a threat to Liberty. That said yes, there is corruption wherever there are people. Cities just happen to have a lot of money and a lot of people. Massachusetts has made corruption a bit of science though.

My point was really just that people cry about NIMBYs, but they are an intentional part of the design of a corrupt system and not some tangential emergent property. If you want to eliminate NIMBYism then embrace the rule of law instead of creating laws that encourage the rule of mobs and corrupt officials... Set up your zoning regulations and stick with them and don't make every project have to go before X number of committees with "the right lawyers"... who are adept at funneling money to the right committee members or staff or donate to the party or the unions or however the bribe money is laundered these days... otherwise NIMBYs are just doing their jobs in a effed up system.

And for the most part NIMBYism is on the side of the law in that these projects require a political process to overcome the legal restrictions that were put in place to block development unless it receives political support because of the aforementioned corrupt system. If you don't want every project to be a political campaign then change the laws to actually mean what they say and cut the lawyers and influencers and politicians out of the execution of the laws.
So I don't really disagree with this. I think you're operating with a broader definition of corruption than I am. To be clear, I'm noting distinct differences between your approach and explanation and odurandina's. What we have are zoning regimes that were created by, and gives power to, neighborhood interests and politicians beholden to them in order to preserve their interests as they see them and give them essential veto power over community change. I don't think that's good public policy, but neither do I think it's corrupt. I agree that the environment of having the appointed members of the ZBA have a blank check to override those zoning rules as they see fit definitely opens the doors up to corruption. How much corruption is going on is an open question, but it's probably either less than you'd think, or it's mostly the soft corruption of developers pledging $$ to unrelated projects. I doubt very much that there is a lot of old-school corruption of the sort USA Lelling recently brought charges against.

I think we'd agree on liberalizing the zoning processes in the region, especially in Boston. The devil comes in the consequences of that. Moving outside of Boston-proper, cities and towns around Boston have a vested interest in keeping their development down: their school districts. Liberalize zoning, and you suddenly have a whole lot of posh public school towns with a flood of development that their schools won't be able to keep up with. I'm not saying we shouldn't liberalize zoning codes because of it... we probably should reexamine the "property-tax as primary school funding tool" paradigm anyway... but it's not like these municipalities don't have a real financial interest in maintaining heavy-handed control over development in their boundaries.


i hear about things going on at the state regulatory level that are pretty crazy.
Stuff that doesn't get in the papers, and will never be discussed on this site.
Don't think this level of insanity happens in LA, or Miami, but maybe Chicago or NYC.
Don't be coy... spill the tea or simmer down.

Also... laughing at the idea that Miami isn't swamped with dirty cartel money.
 

stellarfun

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So I don't really disagree with this. I think you're operating with a broader definition of corruption than I am. To be clear, I'm noting distinct differences between your approach and explanation and odurandina's. What we have are zoning regimes that were created by, and gives power to, neighborhood interests and politicians beholden to them in order to preserve their interests as they see them and give them essential veto power over community change. I don't think that's good public policy, but neither do I think it's corrupt. I agree that the environment of having the appointed members of the ZBA have a blank check to override those zoning rules as they see fit definitely opens the doors up to corruption. How much corruption is going on is an open question, but it's probably either less than you'd think, or it's mostly the soft corruption of developers pledging $$ to unrelated projects. I doubt very much that there is a lot of old-school corruption of the sort USA Lelling recently brought charges against.

I think we'd agree on liberalizing the zoning processes in the region, especially in Boston. The devil comes in the consequences of that. Moving outside of Boston-proper, cities and towns around Boston have a vested interest in keeping their development down: their school districts. Liberalize zoning, and you suddenly have a whole lot of posh public school towns with a flood of development that their schools won't be able to keep up with. I'm not saying we shouldn't liberalize zoning codes because of it... we probably should reexamine the "property-tax as primary school funding tool" paradigm anyway... but it's not like these municipalities don't have a real financial interest in maintaining heavy-handed control over development in their boundaries.




Don't be coy... spill the tea or simmer down.

Also... laughing at the idea that Miami isn't swamped with dirty cartel money.
You should add Proposition 2 1/2 as a major constraint on development because it effectively caps municipal spending. For a primer on how Proposition 2 1/2 affected Reading MA, read this letter to the editor from the former chair of the Board of Selectman. Repeal 2 1/2 and that changes the local perspective on development.
 

George_Apley

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Reading's schools are in rough shape because of several failed Prop 2 1/2 overrides. But we digress... There's gotta be a better thread to discuss this line of inquiry.
 

whighlander

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Let's get back to the issues involved: [[opening gambit]:

Pro Sale of Hynes:
  1. Very valuable real estate could be used to fund expansion of BCEC
    1. located on several transit lines [you can argue 3 [2 Green branches and Orange if you walk to Back Bay] also by that extension Amtrak and Commuter Rail
    2. FAA Tall Tower potential
      1. [some issues involving suspending things over the Pike and Rail, etc​
    3. Good access inbound from I-90 [not so great outbound]
    4. Lots of Parking locally much is weather protected access
    5. Lots of connected hotel rooms
    6. lots of fancy shops and restaurants
    7. lots of office space connected by weather protected passages
  2. Excellent utility access -- EverSource Substation across the street
  3. Could be combined with other available lots to do a major [almost Pru Center scale] development
    1. Parking garage across Dalton St., etc.
  4. No BCEC upgrade without the money from the sale
Anti Sale of Hynes:
  1. Fix-it up and have 2 Publicly owned and operated convention / exhibition facilities
    1. [where does the money for this come from?]
    2. located on several transit lines [you can argue 3 [2 Green branches and Orange if you walk to Back Bay] also by that extension Amtrak and Commuter Rail
    3. Good access inbound from I-90 [not so great outbound]
    4. Lots of Parking locally much is weather protected access
    5. Lots of connected hotel rooms
    6. lots of fancy shops and restaurants

Misc factors:
  1. What is the potential for the big lot behind the BCEC which is part of the package
Open for the next version of the above!
 

JohnAKeith

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I support the proposal to sell the Hynes and expand the BCEC and to give ~12 acres of land :🔙: to the City of Boston. Living in the shadow of the convention center, I'm very interested, although by the time this is all done, I'm sure we'll live somewhere else .. probably the Fenway, I'm thinking, or the New New York Streets, lol.

We can't assume that we'll see "typical" reactions to this proposal. We can all guess that South Boston residents will cry out against any expansion of the convention center and/or any new housing, but perhaps not as loud opposition as we might think, given that the convention center has been here for 15 years now and the neighborhood can't claim it's been adversely affected.

But, seeing their anger over the plans to build housing as part of the Boston Edison project, perhaps there will be as many complaints. With Boston Edison, I guess now the neighborhood wants it to be partially or fully made up of "senior" housing, which seems illogical, because of economics as well as demographics. (Do residents think 55-plus housing is cheaper by any means or are they expecting it to be one huge nursing home or what?).

The land behind BCEC is approximately 12 acres - that's 1,200 units of housing, no? (At least, right?) I am sure there will be a push for mixed-use (given its proximity to other buildings like Related-Beal's "GE" project and life-science projects proposed for this part of South Boston). I would hope housing would be a big part of any proposal, though. Since it's going to be city-owned, could the project be "mixed-income"? I'm sure there will be a push for that. For some reason, a 33/33/33 percent breakdown in affordability strikes me as "fair". 400 units of "subsidized" housing, 400 units moderate income (deed restricted?), and 400 market rate .. is that doable?
 

tangent

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Let's get back to the issues involved: [[opening gambit]:

Pro Sale of Hynes:
  1. Very valuable real estate could be used to fund expansion of BCEC
    1. located on several transit lines [you can argue 3 [2 Green branches and Orange if you walk to Back Bay] also by that extension Amtrak and Commuter Rail
    2. FAA Tall Tower potential
      1. [some issues involving suspending things over the Pike and Rail, etc​
    3. Good access inbound from I-90 [not so great outbound]
    4. Lots of Parking locally much is weather protected access
    5. Lots of connected hotel rooms
    6. lots of fancy shops and restaurants
    7. lots of office space connected by weather protected passages
  2. Excellent utility access -- EverSource Substation across the street
  3. Could be combined with other available lots to do a major [almost Pru Center scale] development
    1. Parking garage across Dalton St., etc.
  4. No BCEC upgrade without the money from the sale
Anti Sale of Hynes:
  1. Fix-it up and have 2 Publicly owned and operated convention / exhibition facilities
    1. [where does the money for this come from?]
    2. located on several transit lines [you can argue 3 [2 Green branches and Orange if you walk to Back Bay] also by that extension Amtrak and Commuter Rail
    3. Good access inbound from I-90 [not so great outbound]
    4. Lots of Parking locally much is weather protected access
    5. Lots of connected hotel rooms
    6. lots of fancy shops and restaurants

Misc factors:
  1. What is the potential for the big lot behind the BCEC which is part of the package
Open for the next version of the above!


I am not anti sale of the Hynes. I just hear alarm bells when I hear a government agency disparaging its own property to justify a fire sale.... citing $200 million in repairs.

Like I said before. If they get $650 million I think it is worth it. If they get $500 million I wouldn't object strenuously, but I wouldn't say it is a good deal at all. If they get $300 million I think that is a steal... as in someone should go to jail.
 

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