Chinatown home to MassDOT offices put up for sale

STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, NOV. 1, 2016…..Putting a prime piece of Boston real estate on the market Tuesday, the Baker administration hopes to generate at least $167 million, cover up part of a major highway in the Chinatown area and shrink the footprint of a steam power plant.

David Begelfer, the chief executive officer of NAIOP representing commercial real estate developers, said the desirability of the Kneeland Street site is enhanced by other nearby developments, including the redevelopment of the old Boston Herald offices.

“Prior to the development of the Ink Block and One Greenway, along with a number of other construction and redevelopment parcels in the area, this property would be a low priority for development,” Begelfer told the News Service in an email. “Now the story is different and there should be a good competitive bidding process for residential and retail uses. Next to ‘location, location, location’ is timing!”

The property sits along Kneeland Street at the edge of Chinatown where the neighborhood meets Interstate 93 heading into the O’Neill Tunnel. It’s home to a more-than-80-year-old steam plant with a 125-foot chimney as well as the Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s 100,000-square-foot District 6 offices, according to the invitation to bid.

MassDOT spokeswoman Jacqueline Goddard told the News Service the transportation department doesn’t know where it will move its offices or when it would move. The invitation for bids spells out an arrangement for MassDOT to lease the property for up to three years after the sale.

Gov. Charlie Baker pushed for the state to sell off under-used state property during his campaign, saying it could boost housing and other opportunities. State officials highlighted the property in February, saying it could create 1.5 million square feet to 2 million square feet of redevelopment.

Any housing development on the site would need to make a minimum of 20 percent of all residential units affordable, according to the invitation. Responses are due March 3.

Development of the 5.5-acre parcel would be a multistage process.

The invitation to bid specifies that the developer would build a shell for Veolia to house and maintain a new “efficient, reduced emission” steam plant before demolishing the old plant.

The minimum bid on the core parcel is $167 million with an additional $5 million minimum bid on an alternate parcel surrounded by highway access roads. Portions of the property are now owned by the state, Veolia, the city of Boston.

The invitation also says the developer would need to build a deck over Interstate 93, and notes an agreement with the Massachusetts Historic Commission caps the height on buildings closest to Kneeland Street at 125 feet.

Copyright 2016 State House News Service