The Principles

OVERARCHING PRINCIPLES FOR DEVELOPMENT IN EAST BOSTON

The aim of this document is to outline five essential principles by which significant future development proposals in East Boston – and Suffolk Downs in particular – might be measured.  Our goal is not to offer specific development scenarios, but to create a principled development framework. This framework is driven by a commitment to work with public sector officials, community members, private sector developers, and investors to ensure this critical and unique site is developed sustainably and in a way that enhances quality of life, job creation and return on investment.  It is informed in part by an emerging sector in the investment world called impact investing – “an investment approach that intentionally seeks to create both financial return, and actively measured positive social or environmental impact.”[1]  Any proposed development at Suffolk Downs should create new prosperity and social value and not destroy them. East Boston is clearly poised for significant growth, and we – a group of local residents, experts, and community leaders – unanimously agree that it is time for “a significant and representative conversation in this diverse community about how we can… attract business investors who are on the cutting edge of urban development and new technology, create thousands of sustainable jobs on our stunning waterfront, preserve the rich immigrant diversity for which East Boston is known, and together shape a bright future for our historic American town.”[2]We believe East Boston is in a strategic position to help lead the city in forward thinking and fiscally responsible development by thoughtfully implementing these five proposed principles:

1.   JOB CREATION:  Any future development at the Suffolk Downs site must be rooted in sustainable job creation that takes into account East Boston’s overall vision for the future.   In part, this means enabling East Boston residents to share in the opportunity of a broad spectrum of jobs, something a casino-based economy would have unfortunately failed to do.  Our residents should have access to training and education that enables them to compete for jobs in growth sectors like technology and financial services, as well as in historically stable job sectors, such as healthcare, construction and social services.

2.   COMMUNITY INCLUSION AND TRANSPARENT PROCESS:  Effective community and economic development processes involve robust and meaningful dialogue with the community in which the development takes place.  Such inclusion requires full and complete transparency and accountability during every phase of the process.  East Boston residents can and will work together to create a vibrant, active, diverse and healthy economy that allows our families to prosper and have the best quality of life possible.  All residents of East Boston will be affected by any redevelopment at Suffolk Downs and, therefore all should have a meaningful opportunity to influence the planning process.[3]

3.   ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT: East Boston bears the brunt of an international airport, three tunnels, a regional petroleum storage facility and a major state highway.  For the sake of our families and for the health of our neighborhoods, future development in East Boston should be centered on an investment vision that is “green” in practice and that works to heal rather than hurt our local environment.  This is particularly the case for a site that abuts one of the most important wetlands in the Greater Boston area.  Our vision of an ecologically sustainable development at Suffolk Downs: (1) is easily accessible by public transport, (2) promotes public health and safety, and (3) improves the overall quality of life for residents in bordering neighborhoods.

4.   TRANSIT ORIENTED DEVELOPMENT:  As the population of Boston expands, planners are increasingly looking to Transit Oriented Development to guide sustainable growth.  By creating walk-able, mixed-use developments centered around public transit, this model creates neighborhoods that enrich their communities without over-taxing existing roadways.  Suffolk Downs in particular holds tremendous potential in this regard.  Two Blue Line stations create quick access to downtown Boston and Logan Airport, and the expanded Silver Line will link to the emerging Innovation District in South Boston.  The adjacent Belle Isle Marsh provides abundant green space and offers potential connections to the East Boston Greenway.  These factors make it an exceptional candidate for a mix of housing and commercial development opportunities, creating a shared economic center for the communities of East Boston, Revere and Winthrop.

5.   ECONOMIC FEASIBILITY:  Any development that creates jobs, includes the community, has a positive environmental impact, and is transit oriented will not be sustainable if it is not also profitable in the long-term.  In order to create value for East Boston residents, proposed developments will need to be grounded in stable and ongoing returns in public and private investment.  The development should therefore fulfill a viable market opportunity that will ultimately drive local economic growth and encourage local investment.  The principles of “social responsibility” and “economic feasibility” should not be viewed in isolation.[4]In conclusion, while the Suffolk Downs site is privately owned, it is supported by – and its value is a direct byproduct of – a highway and transit system owned and operated by the state and paid for by the taxpayers of Massachusetts.  For that reason, it is only fair and just that any major development on its grounds be thoroughly vetted by local citizenry and surrounding communities.  With that in mind, we offer these five essential principles as a practical and economically responsible framework by which any future development proposal at Suffolk Downs can and must be measured.

[1] Abigail Noel and Joel Bryce, “Impact Investing: From Margin to Mainstream”, Stanford Social Innovation Review, 10 October 2013 (www.ssireview.org/blog/entry/impact_investing_from_margin_to_mainstream).

[2] Friends of East Boston, “Open Letter to Suffolk Downs, Our Elected Officials and the People of East Boston”, 30 October 2013 (http://www.friendsofeastboston.com/ – !openletter/cpu0).

[3] Neighbors United for a Better East Boston, “Principles of a Fair Economy in East Boston”, 12 January 2013 (http://nubeastboston.org/news/announcements/principles-of-a-fair-economy-in-east-boston).

[4] US SIF Foundation, “2012 Report on Sustainable and Responsible Investing Trends in the United States”,(http://www.ussif.org/files/Publications/12_Trends_Exec_Summary.pdf).

Advertisements