Yesterday, after the latest Suffolk Downs development meeting, I was conversing with some union guys about a claim made in the meeting that the new Suffolk Downs is only 12 minutes from Downtown. More like 20 minutes, said one guy, “but hey –” that’s the difference between Suffolk Downs and Maverick — 5 minutes to Downtown is maverick ! 5 minutes. You can’t beat it.”
Sale price for the Suffolk Downs condos was actually the discussion. They’ll be far less than those in the ,maverick area, that’s just how it is, went the talk. And so it is. If you think that development in Revere and adjacent to it is a big thing, imagine what is going on around Maverick square and in the Gove Street neighborhood just northeast of it. AS another guy said in the same conversation, “and in Maverick you get the view.” Yes, you get the view. Boston harbor and the Tall ships,m not to mention the tall buildings beyond and the fireworks displays. As Downtown continues to boom, there’ll be more to view. Much more, and if you live there, you’re just five minutes away from all the action.
So it is that the parts of East Boston closest to “the view” are undergoing the most radical transformation on the Harbor’s north side. There’;s certainly development in Orient Heights, and a little in the Salesians region, and a great deal of renovation in Eagle Hill and Jeffries Point; but the Gove Street and Maverick-Central portions of “Eastie” aren’t merely being renovated. They’;re in utter reconfiguration. because they’re the close regions to “the view,” the sections where prices are climbing the highest and thus where real estate bounty is most bountiful.
Much of the rebuilding of maverick Square has already happened, by way of ugly apartment blocks along the Harbor front from Lewis Wharf to Piers Park and from Central Square up along Border Street to the Umana School. The ugliest “craptitecture,” as one activist calls it, phase does now seem to have burnt out. The proposals I’ve seen for the Gove Street neighborhood have, at least, a semblance of attempt not to impose ugly as a feature. Set-backs are on offer, and some restaurant amenities, maybe trees and some play space. (These were touted at Monday night’s Gove Street Citizens meeting as pluses for the large 273-279 Maverick Street proposal.) Nonetheless, Gove Street neighbors find themselves almost overwhelmed by big-box proposals. Maverick Street alone has projects at 320, 287, 273-2789, 205, and 179-175; add to that the vast Mount Carmel proposal and the creation of an hotel in the “Berlin 1945 movie set” building (as I cal, it) that abuts Porter and Orleans Streets. Then there’s Geneva Street, a bumpy, pothole trail, unaccepted so far by the city, on which only one, single-family house existed until recently. Today’s there’s four multi’s, and two new proposals will add 6 and 30 units of cramped-size condominiums for sale. (Cramp size is a feature here. With real estate in “the view” neighborhoods costing ever higher dollars — the Suffolk Downs developer says that it cost them $ 8900,000 a unit to build here — condos for sale have to be shoebox size or smaller even for well-walleted buyers.
This is not good news for Gove Street’s neighbors. Much of the area was developed too densely to begin with : brick six family, New York-style apartment houses bricked directly onto the property line, leaving no room for trees or a front yard. Gove Street badly needs breathing room, for people, and parking room for cars, but it has very little of either except in a few spots such as lower Frankfort Street, the Greenway, the park on the Airport side of Geneva, the McKay Schoolyard, or the park that abuts part of Orleans Street. The neighborhood needs to stretch its arms and legs — trees and street front set backs — but there’s precious little of it and not much in the offing,. But that view… oh yes,. That view.