Widett Circle Redevelopment

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Widett Circle Redevelopment

Postby Teamdriver » Wed May 24, 2017 6:07 pm

Plans to redevelop Widett Circle could collide with need to park trains

The Boston Globe wrote:Food wholesalers with an ambitious vision for what could be Boston’s next hot neighborhood may be on a collision course with state transportation officials who are eyeing their land as a crucial parking spot for trains near South Station.

In the wake of the city’s defunct Olympics bid, wholesalers at Widett Circle, a sprawling industrial area between the South End and South Boston, are considering a big move. That would mean putting their 19 acres of land on the market. The idea of redeveloping the area has been hailed by Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh, prompting him to put it on the short list of places he’d like to see transformed into a vibrant neighborhood.

But the state Department of Transportation recently singled out the Widett land as a “critical” layover area for commuter rail trains in the agency’s plans to expand nearby South Station.

The state agency needs a place to park the trainsduring off-peak times, when fewer of them are in use. It already has four layover sites that serve South Station, including one adjacent to Widett Circle, but will need more to accommodate the extra trains anticipated after the station expansion is completed.
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Re: Plans to redevelop Widett Circle could collide with need

Postby Backshophoss » Wed May 24, 2017 8:08 pm

So this NOW becomes a turf WAR between the current mayor of Boston and MassDOT,with the MBTA caught in the middle.
Why the Heck do you want residential area next to the current Amtrak yard? :P
MBTA better hold on to as much of the Beacon Park land as possible,if MassDOT screws this up big time.
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Re: Plans to redevelop Widett Circle could collide with need

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Thu May 25, 2017 5:59 am

Holy hell, how clueless can this Globe reporter be?!? It says directly on the very PowerPoint slide cropped in the article as a graphic: "Potential use for midday layover would be designed to accommodate the future inclusion of a deck for new development". The whole point of marrying the ground-level storage easement with the deck provision was so it DIDN'T cost $1B saddled solely on the developer to deck the Widett 'bowl' and raise it up to street level so the new development could interface with the grid.

The fact that the Olympics "Master Developer" was being tasked with paying for the deck because NOTHING shared-use was planned underneath to help underwrite the decking cost except for developer-managed parking, was the very thing that scared away all potential Widett developers. And since Boston 2024 was chucking a wild hail-mary on "Midtown" being the linchpin of the whole Olympics bid, the whole Olympics bid tanked from them getting rejected by every single developer over the enormity of the private-investment risk. The bid would've survived much longer and/or met its end in far less humilating fashion if they hadn't given MassDOT the middle finger from Day 1 on this very same ground-level easement which provided the means of underwriting the decking costs.

And now Widett is 1 month back in the news because this transpo easement has been formally led as 'the' deck-underwriting solve for what killed the Olympics "Midtown" proposal, like it should've been the first time around were B24 not too full of itself to reach out to other stakeholders. And the same media that breathlessly covered the alpha and omega of that whole planning vat of stupid the first time around can't put 2 and 2 together that MassDOT's presence is the how & why a developer won't have to absorb 100% of the decking cost this time...and just repeats the same B24 postmortem soundbites on the front page:

David Begelfer, chief executive of the real estate trade group NAIOP Massachusetts, said that with such a high price tag, government would probably need to finance the deck — and then sell off spaces above it to developers.

“No one developer would take on [a] project with infrastructure costs as great as that,” said Begelfer, whose group represents major players in commercial real estate. “Someone would have to come along there and do the deck first before you could really create the demand to get the developers to come in.”


You mean...like the new South Station Tower, and the Pru complex that's been straddling the Pike for 30 years??? Since you can't build "the next great neighborhood in Boston" in a worthlessly access-constrained bowl without jacking it up one story to interface with street level, there has to be a deck and somebody has to pay for it. And since B24 already tried to make the developer float that cost alone and was met with laughter and crickets...maybe engaging the ground-level transpo public stakeholder is the very difference between getting a canvas to build on at all or never??

Naaah! Couldn't be. Let's bring up the completely irrelevant NSRL and start a self-consuming NIMBY frenzy instead. Egad, what utterly senseless stupidly.
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Re: Plans to redevelop Widett Circle could collide with need

Postby Teamdriver » Thu May 25, 2017 8:39 am

Maybe swap air rights over Cabot for Widett, who knew. Pru used to be a rail yard at one time, area around Southampton street had an incinerator and scrap yards , now a jail. No one wanted anything to do with it, and look now, Look at Gilette for future evolvement , need more rail infrastructure, maybe even a rail/ helioport/ harbor ferry complex on A street.
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Re: Plans to redevelop Widett Circle could collide with need

Postby BandA » Thu May 25, 2017 6:54 pm

This is the way to talk up the value of Widett Cir. so it costs MassDOT more money!! If they get the same acreage in some waterfront land swap that is more valuable than Widett. If they are talking about taking Widett and giving them a lease on the waterfront, then it's a ripoff. Why is this taking so long?

I think they should have done a storage yard under the Boston Herald development. Great access to the NEC & Framingham line and much closer to BOS than these other yards. Oh well.
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Re: Plans to redevelop Widett Circle could collide with need

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Fri May 26, 2017 7:24 am

MassDOT doesn't have any waterfront land to swap. Massport was going to relocate the Food Market to Marine Terminal to pave the way for the storage yard, and then terms would be finalized for decking redevelopment on top of the yards. That's the only way Widett has any land value, because developing down at ground level in the 'bowl' leaves the giant slab of land without effective street access meaning it MUST be decked for any of that "great new neighborhood" to interface with Southie Bypass Rd., Mass Ave. Connector, and any other cross streets drawn up to frame the parcel. It's worthless land without the deck. The whole reason the Olympics "Midtown" proposal collapsed is because. . .

1) it had to have a deck. . .
2) B24 was too full of itself to engage MassDOT about this very same deck-over-yards underwriting proposal, tried to shove the entire decking cost on the developer, and found zero developers willing to go it alone on such an unacceptably steep up-front risk.

This is literally the solve that gives Widett land ANY redev value whatsoever, and City-level factions are fighting it instead of embracing it. If they defeat this NOTHING will ever get built for the same reasons the Boston 2024 "Midtown" plan collapsed: it must have a deck for the land to have value, there's no scenario that gets the deck built without public subsidy, and there's no public subsidy large enough in scope to effectively float the cost of the deck within acceptable cost for all parties except for a ground-level MBTA storage yard. Nobody's going to make any money pulling an Operation Chaos on the state over Widett, because Widett has little real-world $$$ value without the state's proposal.


The Herald site never would've worked. It's too small and constrained by one unidirectional siding off the single most congested part of the NEC at Cove. The layover yard studies detail all the access functions a midday terminal district layover must have in order to be of any use, and those access requirements eliminate nearly everything out-of-sight of the city. Widett, Readville, and Beacon Park were the only three that worked well enough. And BP is a whole lot smaller: 8 trainsets (down from 14) instead of 30, with no decking potential. If they have to go to Harvard to try to scrape for more again, it's going to cost the state more to try to get that storage back to the mid/upper teens AND leave them with no cost-recoup option on redev because Beacon Park isn't appropriate for air rights. Nowhere else was appropriate for any cost-recouping air rights. Widett worked the best of the three for ops, and since "Midtown" requires the deck to have any real estate value it had the triple-whammy of being the only ops-acceptable site that CREATED real estate value where there previously was none and had the fewest acreage and visual impacts to the city after all of that decking potential is exploited.

City pols and their mouthpieces are dreaming if they think trains can just live any old place, serve all of the terminal district's commuting needs, somehow stay in constant motion without a single shift change by citing irrelevancies like the NSRL, and stay completely out of the city by occupying tiny little misshapen nooks and crannies of somebody else's land (but not my somebody else's land!). It doesn't work that way anywhere in the world. Widett + decking IS the killshot that lets everyone have their cake and eat it too, and City institutions would rather vomit all over themselves with factionalism than take a hint.

Can't pin any of this on the state: they're serving up exactly what everyone wants and needs. City Hall, the Mayor's cronies, the BRA/BDPA, and the utter dysfunction in public-private coordination between city institutions and big biz/real estate would rather eat themselves alive than cooperate for their own best interests. "This is why we can't have nice things" and yada yada yada. :(
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Re: Widett Circle Redevelopment

Postby BandA » Mon May 29, 2017 12:00 am

So, the MBTA which is under MassDOT which is under the Governor has to get MassPORT Authority which is under their own board to give their valuable land to private companies for free so that MassDOT can get almost worthless to anybody else key parcel at Widet Cir. Facepalm.

Don't understand why MBTA can't take the first couple floors of Beacon Park for yard, and build the "neighborhood" starting at third floor level. Site is hemmed in by the railroad tracks and the Mass Pike and Soldier's Field Rd anyway, all access is from above.

It is helpful to remember for those who are New that the MassPIKE Authority *owned* Beacon Park, sold their rights to Harvard University for a relatively small number of millions (forget how many), so they could plug their deficit paying for the big dig. Real, crooked, hack politicians. The MBTA (a completely separate state authority at the time) was angry that MassPIKE did this. If they had not sold these rights for a few million CSX would still be using Beacon Park and we wouldn't be talking about Worcester yard being overcrowded. The MBTA and the Turnpike would be in a much, much stronger position today.

Also worth noting, the Massachusetts state constitution protects Harvard University, and only Harvard University, from having their property taken by eminent domain!
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Re: Widett Circle Redevelopment

Postby csor2010 » Mon May 29, 2017 3:45 pm

BandA wrote:So, the MBTA which is under MassDOT which is under the Governor has to get MassPORT Authority which is under their own board to give their valuable land to private companies for free so that MassDOT can get almost worthless to anybody else key parcel at Widet Cir. Facepalm.

Don't understand why MBTA can't take the first couple floors of Beacon Park for yard, and build the "neighborhood" starting at third floor level. Site is hemmed in by the railroad tracks and the Mass Pike and Soldier's Field Rd anyway, all access is from above.


Beacon Park is an inferior location because it's far from South Station and can only be accessed via the two tracks of the Worcester Main. Anything coming to/from the Old Colony side of South Station has to cross the entire station throat to get to the layover, with resulting potential for a Penn Station-style toilet clog. Widett is straight down the middle, between the Old Colony and the NEC. Putting everything at Beacon Park could also limit Worcester frequencies due to deadheads using the last ~2 miles of track to South Station. Widett is just as hemmed in by highways as Beacon Park - likewise, all access is from above (except for one access road). Hence the plan is that the T builds its storage yard on the "first floor" and the neighborhood gets built on top.

It is helpful to remember for those who are New that the MassPIKE Authority *owned* Beacon Park, sold their rights to Harvard University for a relatively small number of millions (forget how many), so they could plug their deficit paying for the big dig. Real, crooked, hack politicians. The MBTA (a completely separate state authority at the time) was angry that MassPIKE did this. If they had not sold these rights for a few million CSX would still be using Beacon Park and we wouldn't be talking about Worcester yard being overcrowded. The MBTA and the Turnpike would be in a much, much stronger position today.

Also worth noting, the Massachusetts state constitution protects Harvard University, and only Harvard University, from having their property taken by eminent domain!


CSX moving to Worcester is the entire reason the T was able to increase Worcester frequencies at all, and my understanding was that CSX might have done it even if MassPike hadn't sold the land. If CSX was still using Beacon Park, the single-track clog would still be in place and frequencies would still be limited by freight trains getting in/out of the yard. The space constraints in Worcester are entirely on the T layover, which is only affected by CSX's move in the hypothetical case that an expanded layover could have used space currently occupied by the expanded CSX yard.
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Re: Widett Circle Redevelopment

Postby nomis » Tue May 30, 2017 10:42 am

Time to play devil's advocate to csor2010's post above ...
Beacon Park is an decent alternative location because it's approx 3.5 milesfrom South Station and can only be accessed via the two tracks of the Worcester Main, but using COVE and TOWER 1, can reach all current tracks via NEC Track 5 (B&A Track 1). Anything coming to/from the Old Colony side of South Station has to cross the entire station throat to get to the useful tracks for the Worcester Line service, with resulting potential for a Penn Station-style toilet clog. Widett is straight down the middle, between the Old Colony and the NEC and trains still sit in conga lines in the afternoon rush hoping to arrive before boarding time. Adding contingency at Beacon Park could possibly limit Worcester frequencies due to deadheads using the last ~3 miles of track to South Station, but will add resiliency to the Worcester schedule, and possibly even let S&I occur at BET with deadhead moves over the Grand Junction. Widett is just as hemmed in by highways as Beacon Park - likewise, all access is from above (except for one access road). Hence the plan is that the T builds its storage yard on the "first floor" and the neighborhood gets built on top.
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Re: Widett Circle Redevelopment

Postby Rockingham Racer » Tue May 30, 2017 12:30 pm

What is preventing the laying of a third track out to Beacon Park?
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Re: Widett Circle Redevelopment

Postby The EGE » Tue May 30, 2017 12:47 pm

Fifteen overhead bridges, the Copley Place tunnel, Yawkey station, and being sandwiched between the Pike and dense urban neighborhoods?
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Re: Widett Circle Redevelopment

Postby leviramsey » Tue May 30, 2017 12:56 pm

I think SSX is what makes a Beacon Park layover questionable for anything that's not Worcester. The center of gravity for departures will shift eastward, meaning that a greater proportion of BP deadheads will foul the NEC. Additionally, there's more of a chance to add capacity between Widett and South Station than there is between BP and South Station (I'm absolutely willing to wager a million bucks to win five that we see hourly passenger trains to Pittsfield running under wire the whole way before we see an extra track from BP to South Station).

Electrification might change things up, of course. Wire to at least Framingham and more electrical capacity on the NEC are the obvious first steps for south side electrification, and at least potentially electrics won't spend as much time laying over near downtown. In that scenario, BP's disadvantages start shrinking, and there might be justification for having electrics layover at BP, and better acceleration adds a bit more capacity inside of Boston Landing.
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Re: Widett Circle Redevelopment

Postby leviramsey » Tue May 30, 2017 1:01 pm

It may well be cheaper to buy Worcester-Chicago from CSX, string wire from Boston to Chicago, and straighten enough curves to use the Acelas that get replaced in Boston-Chicago 125/150 mph service than to add a third track to Beacon Park.
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Re: Widett Circle Redevelopment

Postby BandA » Tue May 30, 2017 9:15 pm

I think if you need a third or fourth track between Beacon Park & BBY, you need to dig down. The island platform at BBY is dramatically wide, just sayin'

At some point I think they will need to double-deck the pike. I think that would be the time to at least double the railroad too, and/or do something interesting with the Orange Line. I imagine there would be water table problems with digging.
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Re: Widett Circle Redevelopment

Postby csor2010 » Tue May 30, 2017 9:33 pm

nomis wrote:Time to play devil's advocate to csor2010's post above ...


To qualify my post a bit, I'm not opposed to using Beacon Park as a contingency or as a secondary yard, and I think the T has been smart to reserve as much space as it can in the event that Widett doesn't happen. However, IMHO it's better suited to be a smaller layover servicing mainly Worcester and some NEC sets rather than an outright replacement for Widett serving the entire station.
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