Urban Renewal Area Approved by State for Lower Broadway

The Everett Redevelopment Authority now has some authority.

The state’s environmental regulator (known as MEPA) approved an Urban Renewal Area in the Lower Broadway portion of Everett in a decision made earlier this month and made public in a recent letter.

While the Everett Redevelopment Authority has existed already, there was no particular Urban Renewal Area for the Authority to concentrate on.

“I hereby determine that this project does not require and Environmental Impact Report,” wrote State Environmental Secretary Matthew Beaton. “Under the Urban Renewal Plan program, administered by the Department of Housing and Community Development, municipalities are authorized to develop blighted areas for residential, recreational, business, commercial or other purposes. Urban renewal provides communities with tools to help initiate redevelopment when it is unlikely to occur with existing municipal regulatory powers or by the private sector alone. A community whose urban renewal plan is approved…may undertake certain actions, including the taking of private property by eminent domain, and the disposition of this property to another private entity for redevelopment.”

Naturally, the last part of that statement is the scary part for homeowner in The Line neighborhood, who have worried publicly that the new Authority could come knocking with an announcement that they are taking their property, a al the West End debacle in Boston.

However, as many have said, it’s an opportunity for the City to get a handle beforehand on what could be a major influx of development to the Lower Broadway District following the success of the Batch Yard Lofts and the coming Wynn Everett casino.

City Attorney David Rodrigues calmed a lot of the fears of having an Authority during a public meeting on Tuesday night, Oct. 6, that discussed the Wynn clean up project.

“The MEPA office did accept our plan and gave us our certification,” he told the crowd. “It’s a way we can begin to implement our Lower Broadway Master Plan that the mayor initiated in 2010 before Wynn came to Everett. This is not a replacement for the private market. No one is going to knock on your door from the City and take your house for pennies on the dollar. If you have questions about urban renewal or the district, we urge residents to contact us.”

He reiterated that what happened in the West End in the 1960s could never happen on Lower Broadway.

“The West End comes up inevitably and Scollay Square comes up,” he said. “That can’t happen here. When that happened, they changed the laws. The laws now have very robust protections for property owners to prevent that from happening.”

The District includes 128 acres and is approximately 73 percent non-residential uses – mostly with vacant lots, commercial structures and industrial uses. Strikingly, the largest use in the District is vacant land, which makes up 25 acres, or 19 percent.

Of course, most of that vacant land is slated to be developed as the Wynn Everett casino.

The second largest use there is the MBTA Shops on Broadway.

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