Developer aims to transform Bayside Expo Center site into Dorchester Bay CitySeptember 25, 2020
A development company on Wednesday laid out a vision for what it is calling Dorchester Bay City, a huge residential, retail, and office project on the site of the old Bayside Expo Center.
Documents filed by Accordia Partners with the Boston Planning & Development Agency detail what would be one of the city’s largest development projects and ― its backers hope ― a hub for businesses such as life sciences firms that could rival Kendall Square in Cambridge. It would will also be a major change for the area, which borders the University of Massachusetts Boston campus.
Dorchester Bay City would encompass 5.9 million square feet and include about 1,740 residential units, 155,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space, and about 4 million square feet of space for offices, scientific research, and perhaps academic uses.
The developer also is planning 20 acres of open space, most of which it says would be accessible to the public.
Kirk Sykes, a partner in Accordia, said the project is a unique opportunity to stitch together some of most important assets in that area of the city, including the shoreline, Moakley Park, the UMass complex, and the many different cultures living in Dorchester and South Boston.
“The authentic places and textures that make amazing destinations are already here,” he said. “What we need to do is connect the dots and bring the community and the city to the place where all of these things happen.”
Dorchester Bay City, which would be built out over 10 to 15 years, would comprise 17 buildings reaching as high as 294 feet. Renderings released by the developer depict a variety of colors, materials, and feels — from curving glass facades to angular towers with windows bounded by metallic frames.
At the center of the project would be a broad boardwalk and other pedestrian areas designed to draw people from Morrissey Boulevard, the MBTA’s JFK/UMass Station, and adjacent areas through the development and to the edge of the Dorchester Shores state reservation.
Documents the developer filed call the project “transformative for the Columbia Point peninsula and surrounding neighborhoods by creating a new destination that enhances the existing institutions on Columbia Point, and generates thousands of construction and permanent jobs.”
The project also could be a big help to the neighboring campus. UMass offered the property to private developers under a long-term lease; Accordia, which includes a pair of veteran Boston builders, and the investment firm Ares Management won the bidding with an offer that would bring $235 million to the university.
Some of the money would be used to repair a crumbling below-ground garage at the cash-strapped campus, UMass officials have said. Accordia also bought the neighboring 13-acre Santander bank complex for $110 million last year and will include that land in the development.
Altogether, the project would cover nearly 34 acres.
The filing kicks off a review process by the city planning and development agency, which is likely to include months of public meetings before a final decision.
Community leaders said they are optimistic the project will deliver on its promise.
“I think, for the most part, people are excited about this because of the scale of the project,” said City Councilor Frank Baker, who represents the area. He said, however, that the prospect of a huge development raises the stakes for city and state transportation improvements to make it easier to travel through the area and get there without a car.
Accordia said it participated in 100 meetings with community and civic groups as it developed plans for the project, and that those meetings are shaping commitments it has made to improve access to the waterfront and to build opportunities for communities of color in at the early stages of the process.
In addition, Accordia said it plans to build the project in such a way that it helps buttress the low-lying area against rising sea levels.
Desmond Rohan, president of the Columbia-Savin Hill Civic Association, said the developer has so far been respectful of community concerns about coastal access and the threat of sea-level rise.
“The architects and the developers have listened to us, which is great. And they have the same concerns, to be honest with you,” he said.