Seaport Convention Center expansion bid hits a snag: South Boston senator

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Then, on Monday, House leaders released their own version of the bill allowing BCEC expansion to continue and omitting any mention of a diversity director or community advisory group. As for the Hynes, the plan for the house could speed up a sale, by requiring a study of the property’s redevelopment or renovation potential, by the end of 2022. That’s a year earlier than an earlier deadline. proposed by legislators.

The bill is a clear sign that House leadership is on board with BCEC’s expansion, but Collins’ resistance could be difficult to overcome, given that the project would be in his district. Collins had backed a previous proposal for a larger expansion, but this one involved years of verification. This new expansion plan, a $400 million project unveiled last month, has not received the same scrutiny.

This is wrong with Collins, who wants to see the concept approved by the community first.

“It’s absurd to think that dropping a pamphlet into the offices of the State House constitutes a community-expanding process,” Collins said.

Collins also said he’s not sure a big expansion is the best use of taxpayer money that continues to flow into the convention center fund — currently totaling around $270 million, including $80 million set aside to satisfy bondholders – from sources including hotel stays, restaurant meals, taxi rides and tour bus ticket sales. Collins suggested that the MCCA, whose board is primarily appointed by the governor, was trying to precipitate an expansion during Governor Charlie Baker’s final year in office. (Baker was also a leading proponent of the Hynes’ redevelopment.)

“You hit a boom after weathering a storm, so now you have to go spend this?” Collins talked about the convention center fund. “It’s a last ditch effort to do something that should have been discussed for the past two years. . . Spending that, even if it’s a surplus, on an expansion that hasn’t even been approved, isn’t really a prudent way to operate.

Rep. Aaron Michlewitz, a Boston Democrat who chairs the House Committee on Ways and Means, said House leaders are comfortable with BCEC’s expansion, and they’ve decided to push back. deadline for the Hynes study so lawmakers will have the findings by the start of the new two-year session in January. These two issues have yet to be addressed in the Senate.

MCCA executive director David Gibbons said he remained hopeful of getting approval for the expansion before the Legislature adjourns on July 31. The next step would be to hire an architect to design the expansion; Architectural firm Populous has already sketched out a rough concept focused on a new addition along D Street that would make it easier to host multiple conventions in the same week.

Gibbons said the new design will break up the giant wall that now faces D Street and bring more vibrancy to this windswept stretch of south Boston.

“This isn’t another big-box convention center killing a neighborhood,” Gibbons said. “We are becoming a center of this neighborhood.”

And he didn’t seem worried about a possible spat with Collins.

“We look forward, as we always have, to working collaboratively with the senator and the local South Boston delegation,” Gibbons said. “We have always worked closely with them and appreciate their advice.”

Gibbons said the MCCA already considers neighborhood concerns and diversity for real estate decisions. Gibbons cited the diverse team of consultants brokerage Colliers brought in to market the Hynes property, which he said would need hundreds of millions of dollars in upgrades if it were to continue as a convention center. .

Herby Duverné of Boston developer Rise Together is among those who would prefer to see the diversity requirement in legislation, as the authority seeks developers at the Hynes and assesses the future of its excess acreage in South Boston. Duverné, who sits on the board of the Black Economic Council of Massachusetts, said his construction company was a finalist to develop affordable housing off D Street and his building security firm, Windwalker Group, had already planned work in a building under construction in Congress. Street – both made possible by the Port Authority of Massachusetts’ approach to counting diversity when evaluating bids. The language Collins advocated would require the MCCA to do the same, adopting the “Massport model.”

“We all know from what we’ve seen of the ‘Massport Model’ that it works, and it works well,” Duverné said. “But we don’t want to stop there.”


Jon Chesto can be contacted at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @jonchesto.

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