New center ahead
Beal Cos. signs on to redevelopment of downtown Quincy
In newly minted blueprints, a revitalized downtown Quincy looks like this: A pair of high-rise office buildings soar above city streets bustling with workers, tourists, and residents. There’s a farmer’s market, 30 new restaurants, and a sweeping public green.
At a cost of $1.6 billion, the project will not be easy to finance and build. But after years of planning, the Quincy Center redevelopment is taking a large step forward - the Beal Cos. is signing on as codeveloper, bringing to Quincy its long experience in building and managing large urban properties in Boston, Cambridge, and other Massachusetts communities.
Most recently Beal built the swanky Clarendon condominium project in the Back Bay. It was an early developer of biotech space in Cambridge, and it has renovated some of Boston’s most noteworthy properties, including the Park Square building and the art deco Batterymarch in Boston’s Financial District.
Beal executives said the 20-block redevelopment will make Quincy Center a destination for health care companies, higher education institutions, and other quality office tenants, as well as an attractive residential community and shopping district that is just 8 miles from Boston. Construction will unfold over the next several years and involves about 3.5 million square feet of new development.
“We’re going to make this into something that’s very exciting,’’ said Robert Beal, president of the Boston-based developer. “There are wonderful opportunities to work with hospitals and universities, and bring in new retail and residences that will make this a truly 24-hour city.’’
That’s a far cry from Quincy Center’s condition today. Its beat up roads and aging buildings give it a tired look; much of its retail is dated and lacks appeal to shoppers from outside the community. Even its high points - such as the Adams National Historical Park, the historic United First Parish Church, and the presence of a Red Line MBTA station - seem obscured by the drab surroundings and lack of consistent foot traffic.
Beal will partner in the revitalization effort with Street-Works, a White Plains, N.Y., company that specializes in urban redevelopment projects and has spent several years designing a master plan for Quincy Center. The two firms will spend much of the next year trying to get new companies and retailers to move to the area so they can generate financing for the project’s first buildings.
In 2013, the developers hope to begin the first of two 20-story office towers as well as a parking garage and large retail building that Beal/Street-Works is building in a separate deal with National Realty & Development Corp. The first phase of work also includes more than 200 loft-style residences and an expansion of Adams Green, which will serve as the centerpiece of the area’s redevelopment.
The project has fervent support from Mayor Thomas P. Koch, who helped craft a unique financing model in which the city is borrowing $289 million for road improvements and other infrastructure to support the project. It will then pay off that debt from future tax and parking garage revenues from the private development. The state is also kicking in more than $60 million in funding for the effort.
Koch said he had anticipated great resistance to such a vast transformation of the city’s commercial core - especially the 20-story office towers - but little materialized.
“People in the city are ready for this to happen,’’ Koch said. “They want to be proud of [Quincy] Center again. We’ve lost that over the last several decades. It’s a great mix of people we have in the city, and this will address the needs of just about every one of them.’’
The project includes multiple components, with the developers emphasizing the need to first create a more bustling atmosphere along downtown streets through construction of the expanded green along with wider sidewalks and cobblestone side streets.
One such street will be known as Cottage Row - a food strip with more than 30 restaurants and retail shops. There will also be a market square with room for new retail stores, a farmer’s market, and other entertainment.
“You really have to nurture and create a great environment’’ along the street, said Ken Narva, managing partner of Street-Works.
The project is expected to create about 7,500 construction jobs over the next several years and more than 11,000 permanent positions.
Casey Ross can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.