WEYMOUTH — Weymouth Landing hit a low point in the early 2000s, when, as Mayor Robert Hedlund recalls, it was best known for its empty storefronts, dilapidated buildings and a homeless encampment.
But with private investment, state money, public transportation and cooperation between Weymouth and Braintree, the Landing is again becoming a bustling, walkable place to live and work. Today, it’s a place that state officials say other communities should look to as they try to write their own redevelopment success stories.
“This is economic development. It’s a classic case,” Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito said Tuesday during a visit to Landing 53, a redevelopment project. “This is exactly what we need to see in communities across the commonwealth.”
Members of the South Shore Chamber of Commerce and the South Shore Development Corp. and local officials on Tuesday joined Polito on a walking tour of Weymouth Landing to discuss an initiative the chamber calls “South Shore 2030” and the progress Weymouth and Braintree have made in encouraging development and attracting new residents to the neighborhood.
The 2030 plan is a comprehensive outline that the chamber has developed for promoting economic growth for the South Shore. The plan focuses on building more housing and updating infrastructure, attracting employers and employees, and working with communities to target areas ripe for redevelopment. One goal is to add 44,000 new housing units on the South Shore by 2030.
Peter Forman, president and CEO of the South Shore Chamber of Commerce, said the South Shore is aging faster than any other metro Boston region, and employment is high in industries that are consolidating and shedding jobs, including retail and financial services. A small housing stock makes it difficult for employers to recruit and retain employees, and infrastructure challenges limit growth.
“We want to leverage the housing prices in Boston to attract young people, who then will hopefully look to buy and settle on the South Shore,” Forman said.
He said the chamber also wants to see the South Shore attract the types of businesses that draw in new residents, such as company headquarters.
The governor must sign off on a new economic development plan for the state within the first year of a new administration, as required by state law. State officials have held listening sessions across Massachusetts to hear concerns and suggestions about the state.
As the state works on developing its plan, Polito said Weymouth Landing exemplifies exactly what communities should be striving for.
On the Braintree side of the Landing, developer Josh Katzen has built 172 apartments and more than 11,000 square feet of commercial space in a development called Landing 53, where the Chair Fair furniture store once sat at the intersection of Route 53 and Commercial Street.
On the Weymouth side, Michael Kiley recently redeveloped the Brava building at 59 Washington St. and is building on the parcel behind it, at 0 Front St., for a total of 23 apartments. Eric and Inga Orozco reopened Passport restaurant, a staple of the Landing, in the revamped space. Kiley’s proposal includes 19 parking spaces for retail and 25 spaces available only to residents.
Farther down Washington Street, Metri Metri is replacing a three-family home at 165 Washington St. with a four-story apartment building with 12 units and 17 parking spots. Joe Gratta is building 42 one-bedroom apartments, 1,700 square feet of first-floor retail space and 67 parking spaces at 143-145 Washington St.
Developer Nick Delegas plans to build 87 apartments and about 10,500 square feet of commercial space on a now-vacant property on Commercial Street. The plan also calls for 148 parking spaces, including at least 35 public parking spaces.
Polito said the state had 30,000 to 40,000 new homes added annually in the 1980s, but now only 8,000 to 10,000 homes are added each year. The state hopes to see 135,000 new homes by 2025.
The redevelopment of the Landing has been years in the making, starting with the completion of the Greenbush commuter rail station in 2007. Two years later, in 2009, the towns received a $2.4 million Public Works Economic Development grant that allowed them to fix sidewalks and put in amenities. The towns also collaborated on new zoning rules to encourage larger, mixed-use buildings.
The towns last fall received $640,000 in MassWorks infrastructure money to help pay for the replacement of a culvert under Commercial Street this summer. The money supplements $1.6 million the state awarded to the towns in 2016 to uncover a section of Smelt Brook — which now runs through an underground culvert in the Landing — and create a pedestrian walkway.
By Jessica Trufant
The Patriot Ledger
Posted Jun 4, 2019 at 5:27 PM
Updated Jun 5, 2019 at 8:38 AM