Building a new neighborhood in East Boston and Revere that’s the size of the Back Bay will be a union job.
The development firm HYM Investment Group and the region’s major construction unions said Monday that they have reached a long-term labor agreement to build 16 million square feet of housing and office space on the site of the shuttered Suffolk Downs racetrack.
The deal, which covers an estimated 14,000 jobs — probably over 20 years — includes $2 million to recruit and train neighborhood residents, women, minorities, and others who have long been underrepresented in Boston’s construction industry.
“An entire generation of new construction workers in the area will experience family-sustaining career opportunities thanks to this agreement and the access it will create at a scale rarely seen,” said Mary Vogel, executive director of Building Pathways, a union-led program that trains people for construction trades apprenticeships and will use some of that $2 million to expand. “It’s great news.”
The contract — between HYM and its general contractor, John Moriarty & Associates, and both the North Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters and Boston’s Building and Construction Trades Council — means the enormous project, expected to cost more than $7 billion and include some 10,000 new homes and millions of square feet of office space — will be built using all-union labor. That’s fairly standard for large projects in Boston but less so in outlying municipalities such as Revere. The deal had been in the works for more than a year and is one of several agreements HYM needs before the project wins approval from the Boston Planning & Development Agency and state regulators.
Another point of negotiation has been affordable housing.
Initially, HYM proposed that 13 percent of the roughly 7,000 units in Boston be set aside at affordable rents — the minimum percentage required by city ordinance. But activists in East Boston, which has seen a wave of rent hikes and condo conversions that are pushing out working-class tenants, have argued for a far higher figure, with some groups urging that fully half of the new housing at Suffolk Downs be affordable.
HYM’s managing partner, Tom O’Brien, said Monday that his firm is near a deal that would keep the 13 percent onsite requirement — at 930 units, still the largest affordable development in Boston decades — while setting aside money to buy about 500 apartments elsewhere in East Boston and maintain them as affordable housing.
“We’re almost ready to go on that,” O’Brien said. “We had some really good meetings last week.”
Transportation funding, too, is still up in the air.
HYM and state transportation officials have been negotiating how much the developer will have to contribute for improvements to nearby roads and public transit. O’Brien said HYM has proposed $41 million for upgrades to Route 1A and $20 million for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, potentially to upgrade the Blue Line or bus service. The Massachusetts Department of Transportation has been pushing for more, say people familiar with the talks. MassDOT has declined to comment.
O’Brien said he was optimistic the project would be voted on at the Boston Planning & Development Agency’s next board meeting, on Jan. 16. A spokeswoman said the agency is still reviewing it. But whether a vote happens this month or next, HYM aims to start construction of the first phase, near the Blue Line’s Beachmont Station in Revere, by year’s end.
“We feel really good about the momentum we have right now,” he said.