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Boston 2024 plans call for massive Widett Circle redevelopment even if we don't get the Olympics, plus tax breaks for the developer

Boston 2024's "2.0" plan for Widett Circle calls for tearing down all the existing facilities in the 83-acre area and turning it into 8 million square feet of office and residential use with the hope Boston gets the Olympics, but under a plan that would continue even if we don't get the games.

The plan for Midtown is viewed as a plan that would proceed with or without the Olympics. Based on that understanding, all land assembly actions are being taken to allow for and facilitate either path. ... These agreements will hold the parcels until the IOC site designation decision in 2017 and then be transferred to a master developer either in an Olympic scenario or a no-Olympic scenario.

The proposal calls for selection of a single developer for the entire 20-year build out, who would be expected to commit to $1.2 billion up front for improvements - notably a giant deck to support construction above rail lines, a rail yard and a bus yard - in exchange for pre-approved city zoning for the project and at least 40 years of tax breaks for the work. Or as Boston 2024 puts it:

We have estimated a $1.2 billion investment by the initial developer that is selected to build and finance the proposed infrastructure, land assemblage and relocation needs, and deck on the 83-acre site. To be selected via a competitive process guided by the City of Boston, the developer will be requested to guarantee cost and completion of the proposed infrastructure, Plaza, and related improvements and provide 100% of the $1.2 billion capital, to be secured by a credit-worthy guarantee. In return for this financial commitment, the developer will benefit from a project that will be fully zoned and entitled with a master development plan, yet with a flexibility of uses to allow for the future development of approximately eight million square feet of mixed-use including, residential, retail, office, hotel, and other related uses; and a tax agreement in place to allow for a gradual increase of real estate tax levels.

Although a tax-reduction agreement would have to be negotiated between the city and the developer, Boston 2024 says a good idea would be for the city to waive 85% of the estimated taxes in the first ten years of the new development, gradually decreasing to 25% 30 years later.

Boston 2024 says that even with tax breaks - similar to those negotiated with Liberty Mutual for its new headquarters in the Back Bay, but far larger - the city would still see a huge increase in property-tax revenue by 2040, from roughly $1.8 million if the land were not touched, to $25 million.

If Boston does get the games, the master developer would likely build up to 1.7 million square feet of new buildings even before the Games open, Boston 2024 says.

The plan relies on the state or developer spending $166 million in transportation-related upgrades, including $96 million to build a new Widett Circle stop on the Fairmount Line and upgrading Broadway station and several of the roads in the area.

Neither the deck construction nor the transportation improvements are included in Boston 2024's overall $5 billion budget for the games.

The plan also still calls for turning Dorchester Avenue from the site to South Station into a new "Olympic Boulevard," even though that would require approval of the US Postal Service, which has long blocked public access to the former part of the avenue that runs past its giant South Boston postal annex. State officials want to move the annex elsewhere to expand South Station, but the postal service has shown little recent desire to move.

Boston 2024 Widett Circle development plan (82M PDF)

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Comments

Widett circle needs to be redeveloped, we need housing to remain a city where people other than the wealthy can live, and building out industrial areas near public transit, is key. This area has better transit than the squidport (which is why the Seaport has such bad traffic-Saturday I had to let the first silver bus pass at south station because it was so overfull, if it doesnt work on weekends I can understand why everyone drives there (besides all the new office buildings have free parking and the new 93 tunnel is free. Can Boston survive as it gets more expensive to live here than cities like NYC?

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care to give an example of that? How does one take a former paid parking lot in The Flats and give away parking while somehow making a profit doing it?

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... what this bid was _really_ all about....

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anyone shocked? Me neither.

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Just a blatant land grab for those connected to construction and unions. With tax breaks to benefit them, for an added bonus. Stop the madness, please.

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Simple enough?

This stuff is insane - if you don't think the land is worth much due to taxes - don't pay much for it. The LibMu deal was a sweetheart's sweetheart deal because as one council aide told me during the depths of the financial crisis where building in this city was essentially frozen - "the mayor needed something good to happen". So the mayor gave away everything they asked for.

One more sign all they want is Widett on the cheap. Stick it - get me the funding and I'll develop it and put a few billion dollars in my pocket. You are not entitled to the people's land.

Here's what we should do:

Tell B24 to stick it
Take the land by eminent domain (after finding new locations for the businesses cooperatively)
Sell it off wholesale or in pieces - whatever gets us the best deal

I have been willing to hold judgment on these Olympic folk, but now they are starting to drool on us.

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..came from the Lib Mu poohbahs on the 2024 board, One can almost imagine the conversations they may have had about how Boston has "easy virtue" and it shaped their whole public approach.

Imagine their dismay when they trotted out that short con and the reply was a withering "Get away from me, leech."

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You know when Robert Patrick is spinning around in the vat of molten steel morphing into this thing and that thing. It is great that he is dying but out there you still feel like there is some unstoppable force that is going to destroy everything because they can. 1.0 was Robert Patrick. 2.0 feels like full Skynet bearing down on us.

There should be no tax breaks for Widett Circle. End of story. There is no room left for development in the core area of the city. (Re)Development is going to flow that way anyway.

There is (will be) no more Seaport to burst onto. Development / Historical restrictions on the Back Bay, Beacon Hill, South End leave those areas to hard to touch. Are you going to knock City Hospital? Never. South Boston is running out of area fast. Go towards Brookline? Ha ha.

The city has two ways to flow from here. Up along Rutherford Avenue and down along Dot. Ave. Both areas are for the most part tired industrial areas with good highway and transit access. These are the perfect areas to redevelop over the next 40 years. The SW corridor will be built upon too, but there is little room there if you look closely.

Why give away tax revenue that we are going to generate without Visafest anyway? So Rich Davey can live in the Back Bay? So Pags can live in a big, big house in Weston and John Fish can live in Milton and Oyster Harbors? We want to give our tax revenue for better schools, infrastructure, better police and fire for them for what again? Stop this mess now.

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WE HAVE A WINNER.

This is exactly it John!

This is why they are so dead set on Widdet. Because by the time 2024 comes around, most of the seaport and other 'up and coming areas' will be all built out. That leaves Widdet and a few other industrial areas left to redevelopment.

Its clear that the Big O is nothing more than land grabs, and sweetheart deals for developers and builders, and nothing more.

We need to send these people packing.

Sad, Until Boston2024 I liked Rich Davey as a person.. very energized about transit and seemed like a decent guy. Now he's just like the rest of them. Sad. Oh well, A chameleon has many different colors I guess.

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Count me in on the "No Olympics" team, but I don't dislike Davey at all. I there should be a movie or at least an HBO show with him as the main character, fighting aliens or parking ticket scofflaws or maybe tracking down lost prints in the depths of libraries or something equally heroic yet futile. He could be played by Edward Furlong from Terminator 2. The picture of him looking at Pagluccia (spelling?) like a fawning muse at yesterday's press conference was classic. He looked like a constipated deer in headlights who just ate a kilo of meth that he stumbled across in the woods. I think he truly means well, and I almost feel bad saying this, but he is well on his way to becoming a curious footnote in Boston history as an Olympic court jester for the ages.

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Now if they give us a Midtown after giving us a SoWa, when do we get a Harlem?

Just wondering.

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Boston had a Harlem. It was mostly bulldozed between 1940-1950 for the Lenox, Camden, and Whittier Street housing projects. Melnea Cass Boulevard, Madison Park, I695, Campus High, and politically motivated arson did the rest in 1960-1970.

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"Midtown"

Call it Widette-ville, bring in pictures of the Widette family from the old SNL skit with family that all had artificially large rear ends, but don't call any part of our city Midtown...Miami is doing that already which is pathetic enough as it is. Stop the madness.

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It seems like if you call a place midtown, it should be the middle of something. This area is a giant cul-de-sac. Sure, it's an elevated Jetson-style cul-de-sac, but it's still the end of something not the middle of anything. Since it's such a big deal they should call it Olympic Park or Olympic Village.

Though "Jetson End" would be funnier.

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And now the USPS is dragged in. The rich asshole bubble is an interesting place.

The tenacity is funny and suggest it's beginning to dawn on them that they are doomed so they may as well try to nag for the land grab that was the centerpiece of the whole dog and pony show.

My news aggregator had this funny analysis of team 2024 that aligns with what I've yapped forever.

http://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/252955/how-boston-2024-was...

It's a marketing trades publication that basically describes the Deval Cabal of Media and Marketing geenyuses as threadbare hicks playing out of their league with a poor grasp of web marketing.

Boston is very advanced in some fields like biomedical or nanotech but it doesn't transfer to old PR Horseshit.

Here's an example of a cited failure point. Sound familiar?

Old Media Approach – The men and women who put the bid together come from the old media world where the compliant, insider Boston Globe would do their bidding and they could control the message and timing.

If there were any problems, throwing money at connected PR firms would do the trick. Great strategy if it was 1993, but the world has changed. There are no secrets on the Internet and viral movements grow within minutes on social media. The opposition has been visible, loud and organized. They are using the web, mobile, social and video to tell the story and rally the troops. The establishment Globe has been a bit of a cheerleader for the effort and its lively reader comment section is running about 90-10 against the idea.

This stuff is common knowledge to anyone working on content craft.

It's basically a bunch of noveau riche swells who were born on third and think they hit a home run. Then you have their retainers who are desperately shifting around to find anyone who still thinks their archaic communications pr model holds water.

They are so tone deaf and bereft of self control that they jumped the gun and said, "No really.. it's all about Widett.

This may be like the stages of dying metaphor where they are at the 'bargaining stage'.

Nice of em to let us know they suck that much.

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Broadly speaking, the idea of developing Widett Circle into some type of housing and neighborhood-ish seems potentially worthwhile to me. It's a very large parcel close to downtown that could be the site for sustainable housing close to the T and walkable to downtown. That's not to disrespect the food market, they should be respected and offered really good terms to move if they're willing. But I don't think it's wrong to look at that parcel and wonder if there's a better use for the residents of Boston.

I also love the idea of opening that stretch of Dot Ave back up, the USPS feet-dragging notwithstanding.

But I see zero reason why we need an Olympics to do either of these things. The idea that the Olympics will spur development is bunk since the city is in an unprecedented building boom. We're now six months in since the USOC picked Boston 2024 and no legitimate rationale has been given for why, in the absence of the Olympics, these projects cannot and will not move forward. I think the answer there is that Boston 2024 knows that to be true, they just want the Games and will say whatever they deem necessary to get them here.

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How blatant can these people be?

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Widett Circle is a wasteland between the red hot real estate markets of South End, South Boston and Chinatown. In 83 acres of land, Widett Circle has 700 people working and generating negligible tax revenue. This a very poor use of land when this area could be a thriving commercial and residential area with tens of thousands of residents, offices, businesses, hotels within a walking distance of Back Bay, Financial District, Seaport and South End. This development will also connect the neighborhoods of South End, South Boston and Downtown better to make Boston a more vibrant city.

Whether you are supporter or opponent of the Olympics, there is no question but the development of Widett Circle is better for our city especially for the next generation.

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You know there's a couple of things I like to call bridges already in place to connect the South End and South Boston and Downtown. Try going over one some time!

Also, when you say,

a more vibrant city

Is that not what we have now? What could possibly make this city more vibrant? The influx of a shitload of new developments in a city that has an infrastructure older than the dirt in the Granary Burial Ground? Are you high? I would say you were Marty Walsh, but you seem capable of actual sentence structure.

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Sez yet another salivating real estate shill.

It may be sub optimal by the standards of a universal yuppie paradise where no useful things live, but really?

As the pipe dream push drifts away on a draft, they can now get to brass tacks and beat the drum to leverage some one elses property out of their grasp to attain their grandiose vision.

It really is why I despise these people. There's almost something sociopathic about the way they lick their chops with another dumb big score wet dream.

You know why all these assholes are agitating?

Because the Fed is fixing to finally start raising interest rates and that will turn their windfall wet dreams into the ordinary levels of profit people made for years before former blow monkeys started running the show.

Remember that 'stimulus' that shored us up after 2008? The main beneficiaries were banks being re-hydrated after near death liquidity drains.

But some of that "trickled down" to developers with platinum commercial bank support. It was a windfall.

So after this long very unusual period of near zero interest rates at the Fed discount window, borrowing costs will get back to their historic average. It's all about coming to expect something for nothing as a way of life.

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If it's that suboptimal, the developers ought to be able to buy out current owners, and build things w/o massive tax breaks, no? Doesn't have to happen all at once, either.

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Then why don't YOU buy it?

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Give me zoning for millions of sf of mixed use zoning and I'll find the funding.

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No public money needed except for the infrastructure improvements Boston was getting anyway, right?!?

Although a tax-reduction agreement would have to be negotiated between the city and the developer, Boston 2024 says a good idea would be for the city to waive 85% of the estimated taxes in the first ten years of the new development, gradually decreasing to 25% 30 years later.

Um... so we're waiving taxes, and that's somehow not public money?

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If a site brings in 850K in taxes a year, and will not otherwise be redeveloped, and an agreement to reduce hypothetical taxes on a massive putative development results in the site bringing in 7M per year on the redeveloped site, this is a giveaway of hypothetical public money that doesn't otherwise exist, in exchange for a windfall of 6.15M in actual public money.

The extent to which this giveaway is actual rather than hypothetical rests on the probability of said redevelopment or tax base increase without such an agreement. 0% probable = entirely hypothetical money given away. 100% probable = entirely actual money given away.

Somewhere between the two extremes may be a bet made by the developer and a bet made by the city.

Or, knowing Boston, somewhere on the other side of 0% may be the whole site gets bought by a university and then the city can whine to them about PILOT for the rest of eternity.

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I understand the difference between an actual and hypothetical loss. I say no more tax breaks for developers. If it's worth building, it's worth paying taxes on. If you can't build it without the tax break, don't build it. Period. Liberty Mutual should have been an eye opener for this city, but we seem hellbent on making the same mistakes over and over.

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So a developer will spend 1.5B to prepare a site (as he would have to do no matter how it was acquired.)

Then he will lend it to the Olympics for a couple of years.

Then in exchange he will receive something like 100M x 40 years of public funding through tax breaks. And a whole bunch of zoning changes that would have otherwise limited the most insensible of his developments.

Sounds like we have $4 Billion in public funding right here...

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Next : IMAGE(http://cdn1.bostonmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/gillette-main.jpg)

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Go to Quincy MA.

One developer.

One long, unfinished failure.

And a developer that bailed.

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Right in our own back yard - can you say Filene's swimming pool?

8 million sf of development - at $1000 per sf - that's $8 billion. That land is worth a lot of money -even after building a deck and paying normal taxes. Plus - only 8 million sf on 83 acres? I think the Hancock is 1 million sf on about an acre. Not saying we'll build 83 Hancocks - but I'm guessing fully built out this is a lot more than 8 million sf. Probably closer to 25 million sf.

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They brought in a developer to revamp the entire downtown. It was one big master plan with one big developer. It was supposed to be a project that the rest of the world would follow. The first of its kind.

The project started off well, but shortly after ripping up the place, the developer came back asking for more money. They figured that since the work had started, they had the city over a barrel.

Quincy balked. The project failed. Now Quincy is back to trying to do the work piecemeal.

It was one giant failure.

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It seems that the true purpose of this bid was to start dialogue on a development that no was publicly discussing. There’s a good chance they were caught off guard that they actually won the USOC. It seems probable their original plan was to bid, fail, then come out “hey, we failed, but the idea we have may still be worth going for”.

I won’t win any friends saying this here. But I actually like the idea of an Olympics. If you hear me out, when I say that I mean the Olympics in-and-of itself. Not the all problems that is actually separable despite everyone talk as if it is intrinsic. Problems like the money loss can be avoidable as long we propose the bid not shaped to cast that much and taking responsibility for missing such costs. Doesn’t that mean the IOC won’t take us? So what? If they require us to sacrifice our interests then accepting such terms would be self-defeating. And when the rumors first started, IOC seems to reeling into a position where they might be interested in doing Olympics under our terms.
That would relieve the biggest reasons.

Other arguments – such as Boston is just incapable – only irritates me as it just an argument of defeatism and I want Boston to prove wrong. That we as a city is more capable than that.

All that said, it seems that bid had no true intention to prove any of that. Lurking in around Archboston, you can see ideas that doesn’t run into so many problems with so many dependencies to work just right. Ideas that doesn’t require moving critical business, engineering challenges of decking, and planned projects that relies on the current winds. Ideas like proposing Beacon Park with partnership with Harvard, BU and MIT. Or at least places like Suffolk Downs. All of which is also useful for schemes to speed or restart projects. Beacon Park Railyard like a great excuse to bring back the A-line (though on a new ROW splitting into Beacon Park and onward). Suffolk Downs would at least give a good excuse to bring back moment to the Red-Blue Connector. All would bring back discussing of fixing the damn power and signal systems. I would imagine if they were operating to being an Olympics and an Olympics benefit for all in Boston, they would be looking at options like that.

But instead, they are pushing Widett. With all the wheels that have to work. With all the engineering that have to go right. And I’m pretty sure none of this can be parlayed fixing any MBTA problems except the pressure to look good to the world. And it seems the only “new” projects relying more of the Commuter Rail Assets than the subway. Whoopie – Widett Circle station, a station for you want to exist to make money for your future development.

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There’s a good chance they were caught off guard that they actually won the USOC. It seems probable their original plan was to bid, fail, then come out “hey, we failed, but the idea we have may still be worth going for”.

Wasn't this a movie and one of the greatest Broadway musical-comedies of all time. Does this mean that John Fish actually is Max Bailystock and Rich Davey is Leo Bloom.

I see it now: After the Olympics and Widett Circle is turned into a neibhorhood devoted to producing really bad musical comedy John and Leo will fly down to Rio, hand in hand, to enjoy the rest of the lives building vast sand-cities on the beaches of Rio.

Wait: How prescient of them. Rio is the next beneficiary of the Olympics in 2016!

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I've had a similar thought for a while now, that the 2024 bid was meant to be a dry run. A bunch of guys wanted to feel out what it would be like to try to get the Olympics, so they got together and started working on it. Then the USOC picked them as a finalist. Then they won, and I can't help wondering if they had this moment of "Oh, sh*t, what have we gotten ourselves into? Welp, we've gotten this far, let's keep going."

This idea helps explain so much of their screw-ups. They didn't get any public feedback because the bid wasn't real. They didn't have communication plans, transparency, government relations, etc., thought out because they didn't think they'd need them. All of a sudden they had to make a pretend bid into a real one, and it was more than they could do.

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was shocked to learn today that they are finalists in the bid to host the Olympic Games.

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I can actually hear the opening strains of '76 Trombones' when I read this stuff.

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I had to look that up.. I thought you meant the Losing Trombone from the Price is Right.

But it fits anyways.. *sad trombone*

I'll be playing this for Davey, Fish, and Co when the bid gets yanked...

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They want to use us AND the USOC to enrich themselves. They'll screw anyone, regardless.

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Finally, some details. What developer wouldn't love this equation? This tradeoff, alone, is an example of why the city should not be committing to this disaster. Love that guys who live out of town - Pagliuca, Rull, etc. - are so happy to commit the future funding of my children's schools, roads, bridges, trash collection, municipal services - for an extended period to make this happen.

I like the Olympics. I do. Just not here when it comes to turning the city I love into an anti-democratic, advertisement controlled place subject to the whims of a corrupt IOC.

Also, if all these grand plans need to happen, let's get our politicians discussing them - not because the Olympics tells them to, but because our citizens deserve planning.

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Especially since, as the Globe reported, the Pru was basically built on a deck without tax breaks - at a time when Boston was not exactly the boomtown it is today - but I suspect the break is due not to the inconvenience of the Olympics but because the whole project relies on that billion-dollar deck, which won't be fully recouped until 20 years later.

Whether the city should in essence pick up some of the developer's risk, through tax breaks, is another matter.

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Pretty sure. More recently developers claiming they can do it without government funds, then they all back out. (i.e. - Columbus Center - and nobody else has broken ground).

Logistics for Pike air rights project probably an even bigger deal than the money (dropping an I-beam on a car would be bad, but so would closing a lane or two in the middle of the day - every day - for months/years).

Building the deck over the RR tracks may be a little easier - as you can plan for/control traffic a little more. Dropping an I-beam on a track is not as bad as dropping one on a car, unless you ride the commuter rail that travels over that line.

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If you really want to protect yourself against this kind of Menino era scam happening again and again, demand that the feds investigate this group.

This gang has made obvious screw-ups that I'd venture come from being emboldened by scams that have worked too easily in the past. I think it's therefore plausible that someone made a felony mistake.

Get a rich guy in federal prison, another rich guy wiped out by appropriate fines and loss of business, an official looking at impeachment, and a six-figure public employee losing their pension, and maybe we'll see a new era of government and development around here.

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OK, I was counting on a failed Olympic bid to put this hair-brained (IMO) idea to rest. Now it seems that's not the case. What can we (those that oppose this plan) do in order to fight this? I'm asking an honest question. What's the next step?

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Boston 2024 plans call for massive Widett Circle redevelopment even if we don't get the Olympics, plus tax breaks for the developer

The plot thins...

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How about spending funds to bridge more of the Mass Pike as it still slices through and divides Boston, instead of building over railroad tracks surrounded by freeways? Bob Pessek

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At least according to this WGBH article.

http://wgbhnews.org/post/widett-circle-not-sale-olympians-owners-will-talk

The best two quotes from this article are:

“This is the place that feeds the city and the region,” says Michael Vaughan, spokesman for the business co-op in Widett Circle called the New Boston Food Market.

“Whether you buy a roast beef or a piece of chicken at Roche Brothers in West Roxbury or you go to dinner at Grill 23 or Legal Seafoods, more than likely it passed through the docks and the bays of New Boston Food Market,” he says.

“Our biggest frustration is consistently when anyone refers to the site as underdeveloped or underutilized,” says Vaughan. “We have 800 employees there, we have 20 businesses. We do a billion dollars a year in sales. We’ve grown 10% year-to-year the past 2 years.”

He says Widett Circle, owned cooperatively by the businesses within it, is NOT for sale or even considering moving. The city assesses its value at more than $20 million. So either Vaughan and his colleagues are holding out for the right price or they aren’t convinced yet the Olympics will happen.

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Widett Circle one way or another until now?

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I don't get it. If this is such a great idea, then why are we bribing people to do it? Tax breaks are bribes. "Please come do something that will make you money quicker than if we weren't to act to help you do it." We take known pain for likely minimal reward down the road while they get guaranteed solvency and a far less riskier bigger reward.

If redeveloping Widett Circle happens regardless (and where else is the city going to redevelop next?), then WHY do we have to go out of our way to get it done?? WE are the ones who will have to eminent domain the space and then write off the tax revenue lost. WE are in the power seat in the negotiation. If there's no party on the other side of the table, then so be it. WE don't *have* to redevelop Widett Circle right this second. It's already owned and providing *some* money.

I don't understand why the other side gets to dictate the rules of engagement. And people defend these kinds of deals as being "necessary for business". It's absolutely absurd. It's like holding the high ground and then when the enemy says they'll just retreat you say "oh, well, look, here, have the hill...we'll go down in the next valley and fight from there so at least we're still fighting, okay?".

It's like nobody on the city's side of this equation is fighting for getting the most value out of all of this proposition. The Boston2024 committee WANTS to bring the Olympics here. They WANT to redevelop Widett Circle. They WANT to impose on all of us. This isn't a time for rubber stamps. Why isn't someone on the side of the city saying..."great, you WANT a lot of stuff and in some ways we both want these things...so let's see what I can extract from this relationship because right now, your proposal gives you everything and me very little". Why isn't the city leveraging its position in this instead of just giving away the cow because someone else told them to give it to them?

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... basic common sense into consideration of this issue.

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Why isn't someone on the side of the city saying..."great, you WANT a lot of stuff and in some ways we both want these things...so let's see what I can extract from this relationship because right now, your proposal gives you everything and me very little". Why isn't the city leveraging its position in this instead of just giving away the cow because someone else told them to give it to them?

I agree. But it's because many of them have drunk the Olympic Flavored Kool Aid, and/or will gain in some personal way (or someone they know will) from such a sweetheart deal.

That's how it works in this state.

But a few politicians.. like Lynch (and even Gov Baker to an extent) are starting to see thru the wool now..

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