By Seth Daniel
The City of Everett and Wynn Boston Harbor made a major announcement last Friday about plans for a huge, 10.5-acre, active public park that would go on the old, fenced off GE site on Air Force Road abutting the Malden River.
Plans were released publicly and forwarded to the City Council for the first time on Friday when the Council agenda was made public. Preliminary plans include combining the existing passive Seven Acre Park with a large swath of the GE site, which is currently restricted, fenced off and unusable.
Wynn Boston Harbor purchased the property this year and is in the process of relocating some businesses on Lower Broadway to the southern portion of the site behind the existing parking lot by Boston Coach. Already, Freightliner of Boston has announced its move to that area of the site.
The bigger news for the site is that 3.5 acres will be combined with the existing Seven Acre Park to make a new 10.5 acre complex that, in rough plans right now, contains a turf multi-purpose soccer field, a turf multi-purpose football field, a full-length track, a mini-turf playing field, several play areas, a splash pad water feature, a riverwalk, a marsh restoration project and new tennis courts on the area across the street that now contains a street hockey rink.
“We’ve always maintained that the benefits of Wynn Boston Harbor would go beyond the requirements of our Host Community Agreement, and this is proof,” said Bob DeSalvio, president of Wynn Boston Harbor. “This complex will serve Everett families for generations to come and utilize a waterfront lot that has been dormant for years. Every person in Everett, young or old, will be able to use and enjoy the field, playgrounds and paths this project will provide.”
As part of the deal, which in essence is a swap for Lynde Park (3.5 acres) on Lower Broadway, Wynn will pay for 100 percent of the design, will pay for the clean up of the site and will pay for the construction of 3.5 acres of the park. The City would pay for the additional construction costs.
“At the end of the day, this is seriously going to be a major improvement for the City,” said Mayor Carlo DeMaria. “I’m excited. I promised we would add more parks and open space. This is close to 11 acres of park space and this will add to miles of bicycle paths and a riverwalk.”
The unspoken key to the potential new park is the ability to get General Electric (GE) to sign off on a reaffirmation agreement for the official Activity Use Limitation (AUL) affixed to the property. Because the property was used by GE many years ago for industrial manufacturing, it contains contamination. The presence of that contamination triggered the AUL, which defines what can and cannot be done on the property. One of the restrictions has always been that only passive parks like Seven Acre Park could be built. Sports fields and playgrounds and other developments were not allowed.
Those in the past that wanted to pursue cleaning up the property have run into a unique problem. Unlike many AUL properties, where if one hires a Licensed Site Professional (LSP), they can clean up the property – the GE site had a special condition that required GE to sign off on the plan before anything could be cleaned up. Though they haven’t been on the site in decades, they have always been hesitant to sign the agreement and have turned away many suitors.
However, Wynn was able to succeed apparently where others could not, due mostly, City officials said, to the work of Wynn Attorney Jacqui Krum.
Krum was not available for comment on this story, but was instrumental in assuring GE that Wynn would do the right thing, sources said.
Wynn was able to provide GE with the confidence to sign the agreement this month, and did have to pay some money to get it done as well. The negotiations with GE lasted nearly eight months.
The result was a signed agreement that allows Wynn and the City to clean up and develop the site for the first time in recent history.
Councilor Michael McLaughlin, who represents the area, said he is excited to work with Wynn and the mayor on Air Force Road plans.
“This will be a major improvement to the City of Everett as we finally have the opportunity to enhance an area that was previously untouchable and unusable,” he said. “This concept will offer something for every citizen and be enjoyed for generations to come. I would like to send my congratulations to the Wynn Team for being able to move this project forward in a major way so rapidly.”
DeMaria said Wynn had the capacity to make big things happen, such as convincing GE to sign off on the AUL.
“Wynn has the capability and ability and relationships,” he said.
“We haven’t even begun to see what they will do here,” he continued. “This is one example…We would have probably never been able to lift the AUL. Then they come in and within six months they get it clear.”
Friends of the Malden River said they were very excited about the plans and getting the AUL removed so that people can get access to the river again.
“The Friends of the Malden River are all about access and so this is very good news on that front,” said Karen Buck. “It’s going to open up the river to the people of Everett, Malden and Medford. We hope the landscaping will be native plants and that the river won’t be block off from the people. It’s going to be beautiful.”
The Wynn Boston Harbor park plan for the former GE site on Air Force Road officially came before the City Council on Monday night, where Mayor Carlo DeMaria requested a transfer of land from the body.
The larger plan includes developing a showpiece park with numerous turf playing fields and open spaces, but the nitty-gritty of the proposal includes swapping Lynde Park in the Lower Broadway area for the new GE site.
The Council holds the keys to allow the swap and permit the overall development.
At Monday’s Council meeting, despite the overall excitement about the park plan, there were some fireworks when Councilor Rosa DiFlorio asked that the matter be tabled for two weeks due to Parliamentary Procedure. That irritated some councilors on the board, apparently, who would have liked to see the matter passed as an extraordinary circumstance within the rules.
After some verbal tussling, the matter was tabled, and all seemed to be resolved.
Mayor DeMaria said he would have rather seen the matter resolved in two weeks peacefully than Monday night with acrimony.
“I think we would have gotten 10 or 11 votes to approve it, but we didn’t want anyone to vote against it,” he said. “I’m fine with waiting two weeks. We don’t want this to sour things. We’re gelling now. The City Council, Mayor, Police and Fire are working so well together. It’s the same with the School Department. Things are working really well and we didn’t want to see this be a 10-1 vote or a 9-2 vote.”