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Massachusetts Selling Parts of Boston to Build Mini-City

State transportation officials have announced they're starting to take bids to develop as much as 20 acres of Mass.-owned empty lots between Chinatown and South Boston. The first bids will be for 1.7 acres along Kneeland Street seen as an entry to the rest of the property. Per The Globe's redoubtable Casey Ross:

Officials stressed that such a massive undertaking is sure to take many years, especially given lingering weakness in the economy. ... Even before completion of the Big Dig the land became a magnet for development ideas, including a signature park that would tie into the nearby Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway and large buildings with striking architectural features. "The whole idea is that it would be an extension of Boston and potentially create an iconic new entrance to that part of the city," said Marc Margulies, an architect who chaired a city task force that studied the property. “There is no reason to think Boston is through growing, and this is one of the few places where land is available."

Any development would be defined by tall towers, and the city task force concluded that the acreage could host up to 1,500 housing units, several parks, and retail, including restaurants. We wonder, though, given the towers meant to define it, if that's a conservative estimate, especially the housing number. In Manhattan, New York State transportation officials sold 26 acres of west side land to a team of developers, which then announced a master plan that included 5,000 apartments in nine buildings; several million square feet of office space; a retail complex; a 300-room luxury hotel; another 1,000-room convention hotel; cultural facilities; and a 750-seat public school. You get the idea (and New York City might be getting a big bill). Land like these 20 acres smack-dab in the middle of a city that the task force chairman rightfully concludes is not through growing is immensely valuable long-term, and whichever developer wins the bidding is going to want to build as much as possible.

Any developer that wins the bidding for the Kneeland Street site, known as Parcel 25, will have to navigate the construction of platforms over roadways and highways, always a more costly junket.

The high cost of building over the turnpike contributed to the financial problems that sank the nearby Columbus Center project, an $800 million plan to build condominiums, a hotel, and stores over the turnpike. But the state says the costs for Parcel 25 won't be nearly as high—not as many air rights this go-round. Plus, approval from the city's redevelopment authority is not supposed to be a problem, either. It all looks so seamless, in fact, that you almost forget the 20 acres at stake were born of the Big Dig. Remember that?

Bids for Parcel 25 are due in March.

· State Hopes to Create Southern Gateway to Boston [Globe]
· Huge Shortfall on West Side Project [Daily News]