The city of Medford will offer 28 acres of air rights development over the MBTA’s Wellington station, setting the stage for a potential massive transit-oriented development on the Orange Line.
Medford Mayor Breanna Lungo-Koehn said the city has notified the MBTA about its plan to seek developers for the property along the Mystic River, near the Somerville and Everett lines. A request for information will be issued in late summer, with the goal of attracting a substantial mix of multifamily housing and commercial space.
“It could be almost a small city in itself. We definitely want to play a part in terms of [solving] the affordable housing crisis,” Lungo-Koehn said.
The property located about 3.5 miles from downtown Boston includes an Orange Line station, maintenance and storage facility and large parking lot.
At over 20 acres, the Wellington parcel could potentially support millions of square feet of development. The largest project currently under review in Boston, known as Dorchester Bay City, proposes 6.5 million square feet of development on 36 acres.
Medford has provided the MBTA with a copy of the RFI for review, Lungo-Koehn said, and the two sides have been in back-and-forth discussions. Without getting into specifics, Lungo-Koehn said MBTA officials have responded with comment on their requirements, but differences remain.
“We don’t think it’s sufficient so we’re going ahead with a full RFI and see what interest is there, along with the T and the public, to find the best use for that location,” she said. “We obviously want to be good partners and bring them into the project.”
Any major development would create logistical hurdles about construction taking place without disrupting MBTA service or operations of the maintenance facility. The MBTA did not immediately respond to questions about its position on the proposal, or authority to review it.
Details on what a Wellington air rights project could look like will be shaped by Medford’s comprehensive plan update, which is scheduled for release in August and could shape the first citywide rezoning since the 1960s.
Under legislation sponsored by former mayor and state Rep. John McGlynn, the city of Medford was granted the air rights for the Wellington property in the 1970s. No projects have been built using the mechanism, but the Station Landing mixed-use project was later developed next to the MBTA’s Wellington parking garage in one of the first major suburban transit-oriented developments in Greater Boston.
“Everything is a function of timing and the economy, but it you look at what’s going on around it, the timing might be pretty good,” said John Preotle, developer of the nearby River’s Edge mixed-use development. “If I had to bet, I would bet something would happen sooner rather than later.”
The approximately 10 acres that are located east of the Orange Line tracks, containing surface parking, would be the most desirable part of the site, said Preotle, who has been briefed on the project by Medford officials.
The property sits near a complex interchange where the Massachusetts Department of Transportation is conducting a study of redesigns including a possible flyover from Mystic Valley Parkway to Revere Beach Parkway.
Recent projects in Boston have demonstrated the growing feasibility of air rights above transportation infrastructure after decades of failed attempts.
Samuels & Assoc.’s parcel 12 office-lab-hotel project in Back Bay recently completed a milestone in construction of a deck bridging the Massachusetts Turnpike. Meredith Management and IQHQ are installing beams for a large deck above the Turnpike next to the Brookline Avenue overpass for a pair of 21- and 10-story life science towers and parking garage for their Fenway Center project.