Quincy Center renewal nears reality

By Erin Ailworth
Globe Staff / September 21, 2011

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Quincy is prepping for the long-awaited renewal of its downtown, with a concourse area off Hancock Street slated to open next month, and several public works projects on the calendar for next year, including the relocation of Quincy Town Brook.

With signs of Quincy Center’s $1.6 billion redevelopment finally starting to appear, city officials said yesterday that National Realty & Development Corp., which owns the Lord & Taylor department stores, will help develop and lease about 400,000 square feet of retail space to be built off Burgin Parkway.

“We have only come in now because it’s a reality,’’ said Robert C. Baker, chief executive of National Realty, which is investing an undisclosed amount in the Quincy project. “It’s not something that might happen. It’s going to happen.’’

National Realty’s involvement could mean some big-name tenants for the revamped Quincy Center: At its other properties, the company has leased space to retailers such as Framingham-based TJX Cos., which runs TJ Maxx and Marshalls, as well as Kohl’s, Toys ‘R’ Us, and Target.

The New York real estate firm has a massive portfolio of properties, including shopping centers, business parks, and residential communities, mostly in the Northeast.

Baker and National Realty president John Orrico said they expect to begin pitching the project to potential tenants soon - though they declined to detail exactly which retailers they were targeting.

“We’re going to be looking at apparel, as well as entertainment and restaurants to bring vitality to the downtown area,’’ Orrico said. “If we find the right mix, they’ll complement each other and [people will] cross shop.’’

The ambitious makeover of Quincy Center, which is being headed by Street-Works Development LLC of New York, has been in the works since 2005. In addition to stores and restaurants, it will add two hotels, offices, and more than 1,100 residences to a 50-acre area around Hancock Street. The project is expected to generate roughly 5,700 permanent jobs.

Under a development agreement with the city, Street-Works will pay up front for tens of millions of dollars in road upgrades and other public improvements necessary for the project.

Quincy will repay those costs - once the project starts producing tax revenue - with 30-year bonds for up to $289 million in funds that has been approved by the City Council, said Mayor Thomas Koch. Once built out, and paid off, the new Quincy Center is expected to generate $10 million in additional taxes annually for the city.

The city is also hoping to get money from the state to help pay for the project, and Governor Deval Patrick has already proposed at least $5 million in funds to pay for the relocation of the Quincy Town Brook, a stream that has largely been built over as it travels through the city center.

The concourse area off Hancock Street that is slated to open in early October is one of the first major steps, said Ken Narva, managing partner of Street-Works.

Several other public works improvement projects will happen next year, including the relocation of the town brook.

Narva said he expects private development will break ground in 2013.

Koch, a fervent champion of the development, said residents are impatient for work to begin. The question he most often gets asked, Koch said, is, “When are we starting, Mr. Mayor, when are we starting?’’

Erin Ailworth can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @ailworth.

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