Though it’s a plan in its infancy, many eyebrows have been raised as the City and Encore Boston Harbor are looking to potentially site 630 employee parking spaces on a temporary basis next to the new Freightliner business at the GE site off of Air Force Road.
The plan just came to light this month as the City and Encore came face to face with land that wasn’t going to be used at the GE site – a site that was set aside for the relocation of businesses in Lower Broadway.
John Tocco of Encore Boston Harbor said they had set that land aside next to the new park, the RiverWalk and the potential new City Stadium and playing fields for business relocation some years ago. It was to accommodate businesses that had their locations on Lower Broadway purchased by Wynn. However, only Freightliner took advantage of that program and other businesses found their own options. That left a large swath of land next to the Freightliner without a use.
The problem, however, is that GE has yet to sign off on the ‘limited use’ restriction that exists on the property. That means, Tocco said, only industrial uses with large amounts of parking could be entertained for the site.
Now, Mayor Carlo DeMaria and Encore are working to try to put in the temporary use of employee parking, while also taking another run at the new GE CEO to see if they can lift that restriction.
The mayor has said he envisions a larger Assembly Row style development on the area, but that’s something that can’t happen until GE signs the paperwork.
“There’s a new CEO of GE and the mayor wanted to see if we can get GE to change the restriction,” said Tocco. “With the stroke of a pen, they could make the area in another Assembly Row. It’s not contaminated now, but it’s the limits on uses that still exists. The plan is since we work with Mintz Levin and so does GE, we would work through them to try to get GE to do something good for Everett. This is all very preliminary right now. The plans are very fluid and a lot has to be worked out still.”
Tocco said the parking would simply be an incentive for Encore to hold on to the property while the City works on GE to try to remove the use limitation. He said they can very easily sell the property to an industrial developer, which would likely build an industrial use with more than 600 employee parking spaces.
“There weren’t as many businesses that relocated from Lower Broadway and now it’s time for us to move on,” he said. “We’re going to either sell the property to an industrial developer as our permit allows, or we’re going to do something like this with it. The mayor wants us to take another run at it with GE…Personally, I think it can be done.”
Mayor DeMaria wasn’t immediately available for comment on the plan.
However, others in City government aren’t so hot on the idea of more than 600 vehicles, and numerous shuttles, coming into the area for employee parking.
Councilor Michael McLaughlin, who represents the area, said he is very skeptical given the traffic concerns that already exist, but is also intrigued by the prospect of a nice development back there.
“At first hearing of such a plan you will think what is anyone thinking,” he said. “This being said, when you sit down and fully think this plan through, you start to think about what could become of this site with another development. We have the opportunity to work together with a company that has a proven track record of being a good neighbor to our community.
“This being said I believe if we carefully plan this process through we can work out a solution that is workable for all parties involved,” he continued. “I ask for Wynn Resorts to hold a neighborhood meeting as soon as possible so that we can share and discuss this matter openly and keep the residents involved. Again, my Council seat is the people’s seat and I work for the residents of Everett and will always support what’s best for them first and foremost.”
McLaughlin said he was particularly concerned with how more than 600 employee cars would find their way through Santilli Circle, down Air Force Road and into the parking lot. It’s a question that cannot be answered this early in the game, but Tocco said he didn’t foresee a huge amount of traffic problems, even though he also foresaw the potential lot being full most of the time.
“I think one thing people should remember is this is a very light demand we have – employee parking,” he said. “We’re permitted to offer industrial development that comes with thousands of employee parking spaces for those employees.”
In the end, he said it was a request of the City to see if industrial uses could be derailed, and as part of that, employee parking for Encore is necessary – if it is only temporary.
“It’s not necessarily for us; it’s something the City asked us to do,” he said.
He also mentioned that the move came at a time when they were about to sign a lease for hundreds of parking at Wellington Station on the Orange Line.
“Wellington is ok, but not preferable because we want employees going to Everett businesses and spending money in Everett,” he said. “The mayor wants that as well.”