With the ink drying on the Everett casino approval, an East Boston-based coalition of urban planners are already chiming in about the future of Suffolk Downs.
It's a future that is shrouded in doubt and gloom now that there will be no casino coming to the 161-acre site that straddles the Revere-Eastie line and is home to a historic horse track. Earlier this week, Suffolk Downs indicated the track will be closing down now that there is no casino to pull the operation out of the red.
The East Boston group, which is spearheaded by former state Transportation Secretary James Aloisi and includes various community stakeholders, unrolled a "vision statement" on Wednesday that says the site is ripe for a mix of housing and commercial development. It calls for green redevelopment -- noting the presence of an international airport, three tunnels, and major highway in the area.
The group contends the site, with its Blue Line access and proximity to Logan, downtown and the innovation district in Southie, offers "a wealth of development possibilities beyond a casino"
Any development, according to the group, should be rooted in sustainable job creation and offer a broad spectrum of jobs, something a casino would not do. The proposed Suffolk Downs casino was never very popular in Eastie; last fall, voters there rejected such an idea.
Aloisi, for one, stressed the potential for "21st century jobs" for the site.
"I believe we're trying to begin the conversation," said Aloisi. "That conversation was premature until this (casino) issue got resolved."
Aloisi, an East Boston native added,
Although Suffolk Downs is privately owned, it is supported by a highway and transit system owned and operated by the state and paid for by the taxpayers of Massachusetts. It is only fair and just that any major development on its grounds be thoroughly vetted by local citizenry and surrounding communities. We hope these principles, which express a positive and forward-looking vision for the future of this site and community, will be embraced by a broad spectrum of state and local decision makers.”