As the Boston housing market grows increasingly competitive, people are looking south to Quincy, where they can live close to both the T and the big city.
For its part, Quincy has launched a massive revitalization effort, building hundreds of new apartments and developing more parking. It’s also about to dramatically change its skyline, constructing a 15-story high rise that will be the tallest residential building in the downtown.
Mayor Thomas Koch is a Quincy native and the driving force behind the planning and developing of the New Quincy Center. He said there are several projects happening simultaneously: There’s a new historic park — Hancock-Adams Green — being built in Quincy Center, the MBTA station is getting an upgrade, and four new high-end residential apartments are being built.
“For years I heard, 'You've got to do something about downtown.' And, 'Now you’re doing something about downtown? Jeez, what are you doing to the downtown?' Some people have trouble with change,” Koch said.
But Main Street is making a resurgence, he said.
“This will be the tallest residential building in the city," Koch said. "It’s part of our downtown re-development program, a program which consists of commercial, residential, retail, professional space. We’re well underway, and we’re dealing with all those issues that go with it.”
Those "issues" are things like relocating utility lines and finding places for people to park — all things you might expect to deal with when looking to reconstruct a downtown.
“We have an opportunity in the downtown to take full advantage of the undervalued real estate that has been sitting there for a long time," Koch said, adding that they are best utilizing the existing space by going up — up 15 stories. It’s all part of a public-private partnership, tentatively named "Chestnut Place."
We didn’t hear back from the developer Peter O’Connell about the project. But the new 15-story building is under construction along the Dennis Ryan Parkway, and it includes 124 high-end apartments with 4,000 square feet of commercial space on the first floor.
“When you live in the Boston area, in the older cities like Cambridge, Quincy, and Somerville, we’re fairly built out, so you can only go up, and we’re going pretty vertical on this one,” Koch said.
Inside the offices of the Quincy Planning Department, Deputy Planning Director Robert Stevens takes out a map of where all the redevelopment is happening, and he talks about previous revitalization efforts in the city. The last one began a decade ago, when a New York developer named Street-Works looked to redesign the city. It didn’t go well.
“We had to lick our wounds a little bit," Stevens said. "I think a lot of folks think that Street-Works failed. Of course, they failed to bring new private investment into downtown, but they didn’t fail in helping the city advance some of its regulatory and vision for the downtown.”
Fast forward a few years, and the Quincy Center redesign is back on. New zoning is in place, and private investors have stepped up to the tune of a quarter-of-a-billion dollars. The city also obtained $120 million in local borrowing for infrastructure, $30 million from the state, and another $15 million from the federal government.
There’s a lot of excitement around all these projects. But some are raising concerns.
Brad Croall, president of the Quincy City Council, is worried about pushing existing residents out of the downtown area.
“Anytime there is development, the antennas of sensitivity go up in terms of how we mitigate any potential ancillary impact to the neighborhood or the folks who are already there,” he said.
And Croall is not alone. Bob Lynch of Quincy says all this construction, all this change, is a lot to take in.
“It does seem like [they're] building an awful lot," Lynch said. "Look at Quincy Center and just around everywhere. It seems like a bit too extreme for me.”
Construction on Quincy’s tallest building, which some hope is a catalyst for new tax revenue, is just getting underway. It should take about 18 months to complete.