Two major sections of Everett’s industrial waterfront, totaling some 140 acres, are being primed for redevelopment, potentially transforming a landscape dominated by an old power plant and massive oil storage tanks into biotech labs, housing, hotels, and restaurants.
Brokerage giant JLL has begun circulating a brochure advertising 95-plus acres that ExxonMobil owns in the city, collectively known as the Everett Terminal. This vast swath of land, largely a tank farm today, encompasses four parcels that together reach from the Sweetser Circle rotary at routes 16 and 99 all the way to the Mystic River.
Meanwhile, the city of Everett received approval from the state Department of Housing & Community Development on Aug. 27 to use eminent domain to acquire a 40-acre chunk of the nearly 70-acre Exelon power plant property, across Broadway (Route 99) from the Encore Boston Harbor casino. The Exelon property isn’t technically on the market, and city officials haven’t actually decided to move forward with acquiring the site. But obtaining eminent domain rights could help spur Exelon to sell the property, and it sends a signal to developers that the land could become available.
For Mayor Carlo DeMaria, movement on these two properties represents a major shift in the fortunes of his city. He said he doesn’t want dirty industrial uses to return to either site, although he is open to biomedical manufacturing at part of the ExxonMobil property.
“We don’t want to be people’s dumping grounds,” said DeMaria, who is running for reelection this fall. “Now, it seems as though we have a good opportunity to be able to exercise some control over what that land is going to look like in the future. ... We want to bring 21st century jobs to a community that is deserving of them.”
DeMaria said he is going to reach out to the state’s congressional delegation to seek federal funding to help clean up the ExxonMobil site. Meanwhile, he is pushing state leaders to install one or two commuter rail stations in his city; the trains run through Everett, and pass by the Encore and ExxonMobil properties, but do not stop within the city limits.
He views the ExxonMobil properties as ideal for biopharma labs. The JLL brochure also mentions industrial and multi-family uses in addition to life sciences, saying the parcels “could be the next transformative project for the area.”
Spokeswoman Julie King said ExxonMobil, which employs 18 people at the terminal, will continue to operate the facility as the site is marketed. She didn’t specify why it is being put up for sale now, other than to say the petroleum giant regularly reviews its properties for their contributions to the company’s needs and their potential value to others.
As for Exelon, a spokesman for the power company indicated that his company as the property owner believes it should determine the future of the Mystic site, as opposed to the city doing so through eminent domain. In a brief statement, spokesman Mark Rodgers noted that two gas-fired Mystic turbines, dubbed Units 8 and 9, have been deemed critical for the reliability of New England’s electricity grid and are required to operate through May 2024. Those two units are not part of the 40 acres that could be subject to eminent domain, which contains turbines that have been retired from use. Rodgers also said Exelon is evaluating its options for future uses of the entire Mystic site after May 2024.
DeMaria sees the Exelon property as a “destination location” with hotels, restaurants, and venues that could complement the casino across the street. It also has long been rumored to be a possible site for a soccer stadium for the New England Revolution.
Casino owner Wynn Resorts already owns at least 12 acres on that side of Broadway, and is a potential buyer. Chris Gordon, president of Wynn’s development arm, said he is eager to see the Exelon side of the street redeveloped regardless of who ends up doing it.
“I don’t know what the best use is,” Gordon said. “We think something could be done there that’s better than an abandoned power plant.”
Jon Chesto can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @jonchesto.