Photo by Steve Adams | Banker & Tradesman Staff

Up to 900 multifamily units could be built within the 9-acre Waterfront Square development in Revere, which includes a pedestrian bridge linking the MBTA’s Wonderland station and Revere Beach Boulevard. David Bois of Boston-based Arrowstreet helped design the master plan and the 650 Ocean Ave. apartment complex (rear).

For Revere’s largest development in decades, 2016 is shaping up as a potential tipping point.

Two luxury apartment complexes containing 424 units are the first phase of the 1.4-million-square-foot Waterfront Square, which is designed to fill in nearly 9 acres of parking lots next to the MBTA’s Wonderland station. Up to 900 market-rate housing units could be built in all, along with shops and cafés.

And the city’s designated developer, Eurovest Development of Boston, announced Friday it has agreed to sell a 1-acre parcel to Lixi Group of Montreal for a 150-room Marriott Spring hill Suites hotel that could break ground by year’s end.

While developers rhapsodize about the unobstructed ocean views and 20-minute Blue Line commutes to downtown Boston, redeveloping lots across from America’s first public beach has been a marathon, not a sprint. Land swaps required coordination among the city, MBTA and other state agencies. Public investment in the 9-acre project has spiraled from early estimates of $25 million to nearly $80 million.

Most of the money went to build a new 7-story MBTA parking garage, replacing parking in surface lots where the development is under way or planned. Additional funding helped build a new plaza and cable-stayed footbridge across Ocean Avenue, providing a direct pedestrian connection between the transit station and Revere Beach Boulevard.

Then it was up to the private sector to take a leap of faith in an unproven market.


Outsiders Take A Chance On Revere

Joseph DiGangi, managing director of Boston-based Eurovest Development, has spent close to a decade trying to get Waterfront Square off the ground. His 82-unit Atlantica condo complex, completed in 2005, was the first new development built on Revere Beach since the 1980s. Following a request for proposals, the administration of former Mayor Thomas Ambrosino in 2011 picked Eurovest’s vision for a 1.4-million-square-foot mixed-use development next to the transit station.

Coming out of the recession, it took out-of-state investors to bet on Revere’s future, DiGangi said, and set aside local perceptions about the city’s decline in recent decades.

“Revere is not on top of the radar screen for any local developers. We needed to bring in national players who don’t look at history,” he said. “They saw the opportunity.”

In 2013, Covington Realty Partners LLC of Chicago and Real Estate Capital Partners, a New York private investment fund manager, acquired the first 1.6-acre parcel for the initial multifamily project. The 194-unit Vanguard at Waterfront Square opened in May, and is advertising one-bedroom rents starting at $2,050 a month.

Dedham-based Upton & Partners and Boston-based TA Realty are developing 650 Ocean, designed by Boston-based Arrowstreet with 230 units in three residential podiums. Arrowstreet earlier developed the Waterfront Square master plan.

David Bois, a principal at Arrowstreet, said the designs connect the buildings at Waterfront Square to the community in a way that previous developments didn’t. Neighboring high rises turned their backs on the rest of the city, with no windows on the side of the concrete towers facing away from the beach.

“There’s such a great asset in the beach that you’d love that 100 percent of your units and your hotel rooms to look at the beach, and that’s not feasible,” Bois said. “Making sure it was fully developed around four sides was important.”

And the pedestrian bridge, designed in conjunction with Boston-based Rosales + Partners, is intended to provide a waypoint evoking Boston’s Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge.

“It was important to have an iconic bridge here opening up to the ocean,” he said.

The influx of residents is expected to create a market for 42,000 square feet of shops and restaurants. The master plan also provides for up to 145,000 square feet of office space, but DiGangi said that element is on hold given the lack of a proven market for class A space in the city.

Multifamily development is rebounding elsewhere in Revere, including sites that failed during the recession and others that involve the potential conversion of commercial space near transit.

Baystone Development of Weston is scheduled to break ground next month on The Beach House, a 234-unit luxury apartment complex on a long-vacant parcel at 540 Revere Beach Boulevard. An earlier developer had proposed building 130 luxury condos. Baystone acquired the mortgage after that project failed, and redesigned the project with smaller units, said Todd MacDowell, an executive with Baystone.

Redesign of Wonderland Station has reawakened interest in Revere as a development spot catering to Boston commuters, MacDowell said. “It’s a lifestyle decision, if you’re working in the city and want a little bit more room in your apartment,” he said.

And Boston-based developer Redgate has begun permitting for a 240-unit apartment complex and 130-room hotel at a former Shaw’s supermarket property at 205 Revere Beach Parkway, not far from the MBTA’s Beachmont station.

“Up until now, Revere Beach hasn’t been thought of as a destination, other than a residential destination,” said James Elcock, president of Boston-based Colliers International. “But in this economy it’s the right time to get something done, because people will spend their money and we’re seeing it happen. Every stop on the Blue Line is being put under a microscope by a lot of people.”


New Mayor Wants ‘To Build An Economy’

Revere’s first-year mayor, Brian Arrigo, said Waterfront Square could be a proving ground for economic development, adding Revere to the list of inner-ring suburbs with potential for job creation.

His immediate predecessor, Dan Rizzo, backed a proposed $1 billion casino at Suffolk Downs racetrack that lost out to Steve Wynn’s Mystic River site in Everett. And a statewide ballot question in November would open the door to a potential slots parlor at a trailer park property in Revere next to Suffolk Downs. But Arrigo says it’s time for the oceanfront city to look beyond gaming as an economic savior.

“The fact that there’s so much interest in Revere along the Blue Line, we might be selling ourselves a little bit short if we want to go forward with that,” Arrigo said. “Now that our chances of having a casino are gone, we have an opportunity to build an economy, really.”

A former city councilor with private-sector consulting experience, Arrigo sees potential for luring a corporate headquarters to the 38-acre former Wonderland Greyhound Park. The property was acquired by the owners of the Suffolk Downs in 2010 after Massachusetts voters banned greyhound racing. The city has discussed a master plan with ownership to encourage redevelopment of the property, Arrigo said.

And speculation continues to swirl around the development potential of Suffolk Downs itself, where a limited schedule of just six live races is taking place this summer and fall.

“It’s the elephant in the room, and I look forward to working and discussing with (Boston) Mayor (Martin) Walsh on a collaborative effort to make sure everyone’s on the same page,” Arrigo said.



Blue Line Parcels Under The Microscope

by Steve Adams time to read: 5 min