Speedway meeting notes

Last night (Dec 4) the State's Dept of Capital Asset Management (DCAM) held a meeting at the Honan Library about their plans to sell the Speedway site and maintenance yards on Western Ave. These are the properties on either side of the Toureen Kennel building at the west end of Western Ave near Watertown. You probably know the rotting brown barn.

Approximately 40 people were at the meeting. The site is 3.5 acres. DCAM mentioned the goals from the North Allston Strategic Framework for Planning - create a gateway int the neighborhood, support mixed uses (housing, retail, commercial), enhance the streetscape, and create access to river (both visually and for pedestrians).

Current uses of the site include ~10,000 sq ft of space used by the State Police, the maintenance yard, storage for Hatch Shell equipment, and Publick Theater rehearsal space

History - The Speedway was the first project by the new Metropolitan Park Commission in 1899. It had a 1 mile race track for horses and was the first step in changing river from industrial tidal estuary into a recreational resource. The building complex dates from 1899 to 1924 and is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

The development opportunity is east of Toureen where the State Police building is. That building will probably be demolished. Preservation will be required to the west of Toureen where the barns and home are located.

DCAM suggested moving the DCR maintenance yard to Birmingham Pkwy next to the bocce courts. Representative Moran spoke strongly against that and I agree with him - that land should be parkland, not a maintenance yard.

The State Police may stay on the site if the new building has office space that would suite them. If not, it might be good for the community to have them stay in the area with an increased community presence.

State criteria is not just financial. The entire site will be sold to a single developer who will be required to rehabilitate the historic buildings and they will be free to develop the rest of the site as they (and the BRA) see fit. Possibilities mentioned were housing and retail/commercial.

DCAM plans to stabilize the buildings starting this winter (to prevent water leakage, make sure the buildings won't fall down...)

The State Legislature needs to pass legislation allowing this to move forward. That will be filed in January. If it passes by fall, DCAM would issue a Request for Proposals by the end of 2007. A developer could be chosen in 2008.

Given that Harvard owns the Toureen building right in the middle of the site and the Citizen's Bank building that abuts the site to the east, it is very strange that Harvard didn't have someone attend the meeting last night and DCAM said there have been no discussions with Harvard.

A comparable project that they mentioned is the Chestnut Hill Waterworks development. Apparently many people thought Boston College would buy that site from the State but it ended up going to a private developer for a residential project.

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