John Tocco helped build the tallest tower in Everett, Wynn’s Encore Boston Harbor casino, as head of community affairs and government relations at the casino. Now, Tocco is taking that experience and applying it to what would be the second tallest tower in the city ― a planned 21-story apartment building in an industrial area near the Chelsea line.
The 366-unit building, dubbed “Sky Everett,” would be topped by a restaurant run by father-and-son team Nick and Nico Varano, with views of the Boston skyline, harbor, and casino. V10 Development, Tocco’s real estate venture with Volnay Capital principal Ricky Beliveau, promises the future Sky bar and restaurant would be the highest restaurant in New England. The 6,000-square-foot eatery would include a 1,500-square-foot porch with a retractable roof.
Tocco said he doesn’t have a lease signed with Nick Varano, the famed North End restaurateur, just a verbal commitment to create a memorable rooftop restaurant. Ideally, Tocco would like to start construction next year, with a goal of opening in 2024.
Bob Luz, chief executive of the Massachusetts Restaurant Association, said he can’t think of any other restaurants in the region that would be higher, now that the Top of the Hub in the Prudential tower has closed. (There are some event spaces and dining clubs, such as the UMass Club at One Beacon Street in Boston, that are higher, though.)
“In general, people don’t put restaurants at the top of something [because] it’s not like people drive by and see it,” Luz said. “You would have to say, ‘I’m going to go there, park, and go up 21 floors.’ . . . You have to know it’s up there. That’s the challenge.”
Luz pointed to another potential issue: location. Before closing last year, the Top of the Hub used to draw businesspeople and tourists, along with locals, in part because of its prime spot in the Back Bay.
“The challenge in Everett is it’s not the Prudential Center, in the middle of Boston,” Luz said.
Tocco said he is convinced his project’s unique sweeping views will be a big enough draw, helped along by Varano’s name recognition.
“It’s really an amazing spot with amazing views,” Tocco said. “If we can build something special that the community can enjoy, we really think it can be warmly embraced.”
He said V10 has started the permitting process in Everett, by filing for zoning relief to allow for a building of that size and height. The building property is currently an underused industrial site at 114 Spring St., along 2nd Street and nearly one mile from the new Chelsea commuter rail station that is under construction. The Sky Everett site could eventually be on a Silver Line rapid-transit bus route if the Silver Line gets extended into Everett as proposed.
Tocco got to know Nick Varano during the development of the casino; Varano and fellow North End restaurateur Frank DePasquale run the Fratelli restaurant at the casino, which opened in 2019. Varano is best known for the Strega group of restaurants. His business, The Varano Group, sold three Strega restaurants and related businesses to Dublin investment firm Danu Partners last year. That group is now run under the leadership of the Danu-owned PPX Hospitality Brands, which also owns Smith & Wollensky and recently acquired the Legal Sea Foods restaurants from Roger Berkowitz. (Varano held on to the original Strega, in the North End.)
Tocco left Wynn in August 2019, just two months after the casino opened. He teamed up with Beliveau to focus on Everett development opportunities, although they are also eyeing places outside of the city. Work on their first project, an 85-unit apartment building on Broadway called The 600, has already begun.
“I love the people, I love the proximity,” Tocco said of Everett. “I love being so close to an urban experience but having the flexibility to get in and out [of Boston] fairly easily.”
The Sky Everett project would be built in a roughly 100-acre economic development district dubbed the Commercial Triangle. City officials, led by Mayor Carlo DeMaria, established the district in 2018 by writing new zoning rules aimed to encourage high-density, mixed-use development and gradually change a drab industrial area into a bustling district. Interim planning director Matthew Lattanzi said Tocco’s project seems to align with the purposes of the 2018 rezoning, because it would convert a blighted parcel to a robust mixed-use development, featuring ground-floor retail space along with the rooftop restaurant.
The project site is also located within a federally designated Opportunity Zone, which provides some tax advantages for investors, particularly those that stick with the project for at least 10 years.
Tocco expects the Sky Everett tower will cost about $190 million; he said he is in discussions with several potential investors. He doesn’t expect to nail down financing until the city permitting process is done. The tallest residential building in Everett today, he said, is the Sacro Plaza, an 11-story apartment building in the city center.
“Our hope is this is not just like any other development in the area, that it is something people aspire to,” Tocco said.