Business

Landowners say consent not given for Games plans

Deny that organizers have contacted them

A conceptualization of the proposed Olympic Stadium.
Boston 2024
A conceptualization of the proposed Olympic Stadium.

Property owners where Boston’s proposed Olympic facilities would be located said they feel shut out of the process and have not been contacted by the Games’ local organizers, who have publicly released plans showing new venues on their land.

The property owners’ complaints are at odds with assertions Boston 2024 officials made in documents submitted to the United States Olympic Committee that they have already “engaged” with the private landowners.

Vendors at New Boston Food Market off Interstate 93, where Boston 2024 is proposing the main Olympic stadium, said organizers have falsely represented that their property is for sale and the businesses are open to relocating.

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“We don’t want to move. We’re happy doing business right where we are,” said Jeffrey Corin, owner of Robbins Beef Co. and president of the cooperative that manages the property. “It’s kind of mind boggling when people say, ‘We’re going to build it here and just move these businesses someplace else.’ Nobody’s even talked to us.”

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Several other landowners, including those whose Dorchester properties would be part of the proposed Athletes Village, said Friday they, too, have not heard directly from organizers.

Corcoran Jennison Cos. owns several properties adjacent to the Bayside Exposition Center, which is owned by the University of Massachusetts and would be the center of the Athletes Village. The company owns the Bayside Office Center and the DoubleTree Hotel, which is slated for a $28 million expansion. It is also planning a $40 million residential complex. But Boston 2024 proposes using those properties for housing, a media staging area, or retail shops for competitors.

“We were under the impression that [the Athletes Village] was only on the UMass Boston portion of the property,” said Michael Corcoran, an executive at the firm. “They haven’t contacted us, and we have no intention of slowing our projects.”

Boston 2024 said in its planning documents that it has “engaged all owners in ongoing dialogue about permanent control of all land required” for the stadium and other venues.

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Responding to the property owners’ complaints, Boston 2024 chairman John Fish said Friday that the committee has only tried to demonstrate a “proof of concept” at this point and that the venues the committee has identified were not definite. He suggested it was premature to have detailed discussions with property owners at this stage of the planning.

“There’s no need to startle or introduce anxiety into the conversation when we don’t have more definitive plans,” Fish said.

On Friday, a spokeswoman for the committee issued assurances that organizers will consult with property owners in the coming months. “All plans are subject to change, and the proposals are merely starting points for a robust public process that has just begun and will last through the year,” said spokeswoman Erin Murphy.

The sites for several prominent venues are owned or controlled by public agencies, such as the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority, or prominent institutions, such as Harvard University and UMass Boston, that are participating in the Boston 2024 planning.

The objections that have surfaced so far come from private landowners. But the outcry reinforces complaints from opponents of the Boston bid that the planning process has been too secretive.

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“To start off by insulting and marginalizing us — why would they think we want to sit at a table and negotiate with them?” said Marion Kaiser, owner of Aquanor Marketing Inc., a seafood importer and distributor in New Boston Food Market. “It’s pretty shocking and disrespectful.”

The food market is situated on 20 acres where Boston 2024 officials want to build a 60,000-seat temporary Olympic stadium and other facilities that would serve as a centerpiece of the Games. The committee has renamed the surrounding industrial area “Midtown,” and proposed that after the Games the neighborhood between the South End and South Boston would be redeveloped with new residences, retail stores, and offices.

The sites of proposed Olympic event venues, as conceptually envisioned by the Boston2024 group.
Handout via REUTERS
The sites of proposed Olympic event venues, as conceptually envisioned by the Boston2024 group.

Currently, the 23 businesses located in the food market import and distribute meat, seafood, and other products to restaurants and food vendors across the region. They collectively do about $1 billion in business annually and employ more than 700 people, according to Corin.

A spokesman for New Boston Food Market, Michael Vaughan, said Mayor Martin J. Walsh has set up a meeting with the businesses next week to address their concerns. Vaughan said members of the food market had an initial meeting with organizers in the fall, but had not heard from the committee since. So they were surprised to see their workplaces featured prominently in Olympic documents that were released Wednesday.

“It’s very hurtful for them to pick up the Globe and read these things about their property in the paper,” Vaughan said. “Our preference is to work with Boston 2024 and work with the mayor, but we need to have a seat at the table and avoid these surprises.”

Even business owners who are supportive of the Olympics in Boston question how Boston 2024 is selecting their land for venues.

Criterion Development Partners owns 25 Morrissey Blvd., which is included in some diagrams of the Athletes Village compound. The company is scheduled to begin construction Tuesday on a 278-unit, multimillion dollar apartment building on the property next door to the JFK/UMass T stop.

The apartment building is scheduled to be occupied before Boston learns whether it will host the Games. Jack Englert, the company’s executive vice president, said Criterion Development has not been contacted by Boston 2024.

“That patch of grass and parking lot on the [Olympic] map is our site, and we’re anxious to get in the ground,” said Englert. “We’re not going to postpone it until 2024. They may have to adjust their plan.”

Englert said he was personally supportive of bringing the Olympics to Boston and that his firm was willing to work with the event’s organizers.

Across Morrissey Boulevard, the Boston Teachers Union plans to demolish its current building on Mount Vernon Street and replace it with a larger one. Boston 2024’s plans call for the union’s property to host a retail complex.

“We’ve been working on plans for this building for three years,” said union president Richard Stutman. “I’m not ticked off that they haven’t called us, but we are going full speed ahead” with construction, he said.

The Dorchester Reporter first reported Thursday that the Teachers Union, Corcoran Jennison, and the food market had not been contacted by organizers.

Fish said organizers remain open to moving venues and that as many as 30 to 50 percent of the locations could change by the time Boston 2024 submits its final bid. Most of the current sites are in Boston, Cambridge, and Somerville; a few are in outlying locations such as Foxborough and Lowell. But Fish said it is entirely likely that the footprint of the 2024 Games would be expanded.

“The idea of hosting a venue in the Worcester area is by no means out of the question, and the same thing for Western Mass. and the North Shore,” Fish said.

Jon Chesto of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Casey Ross can be reached at cross@globe.com. Dan Adams can be reached at dadams@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @DanielAdams86.