Wednesday, February 24, 2010

New Balance Proposal for Brighton Landing Development Met With Skepticism From Current Owners of Land

New Balance unveiled their "vision" for a $250 million mixed-use development project, first described here, at a neighborhood public meeting Wednesday night.

Their development proposal was met with considerable skepticism -- from the current owners of the parcels of land New Balance wants to develop. The owners of two of the three big parcels tell the Boston Herald that there's no deal to sell the properties or their development rights to New Balance.

One of those property owners, Marathon Realty Corporation, has an agreement with Lowe's to develop the site for a home improvement store, but the city has previously nixed that idea due to concerns about traffic problems. David Wanger, president of Marathon Realty, told the Boston Globe:
“It’s inappropriate for New Balance to be presenting a proposal of what they would like to do on property owned by my company unless it’s a collaborative effort," Wanger said. “We’re not going to simply abandon our plans because New Balance has new ones."
It is clear from an earlier Herald article that State Representative Michael Moran was previously knowledgeable and supportive of New Balance's proposal; State Representative Kevin Honan was supportive, too, in his comments today to the Herald.

Why would New Balance present their proposals now before they have agreements on any of the parcels?

One theory is that New Balance is trying to preempt Lowe's when they re-propose their own box store idea in the next few weeks. By showing an alternate development vision, New Balance is offering the neighborhood and the city an alternative to undermine the Lowe's project. Over in revenue-strapped City Hall a $250 million development probably looks a lot better than a more modest Lowe's store.

But a more conspiratorial theory has been discussed around the neighborhood for the past few weeks: that New Balance is trying to win over public support for their project in order to pressure the current landowners into selling to New Balance instead of Lowe's. That would explain why New Balance has put so much preliminary effort into wooing the local state representatives over to their project -- and putting a commuter rail stop at nearby Everett Street.

But New Balance's publicized plan could also backfire on them. The owner of one of the parcels seems to be driving his selling price upwards:
“We talked last year and neither the price nor the arrangements were to our benefit,” said William Joyce, [B.L.] Makepeace’s president. “We appreciated the offer, but they were way below anything we consider reasonable.”

Update: Harry Mattison attended the meeting and offers his comments on the development proposal.

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