REVERE – After 84 years of operation, Suffolk Downs race track held its final season of live racing earlier this year. Now its current owner plans on moving forward with a proposed redevelopment plan which would transform the 161 acre site—and Revere in the process.

"So we have to take this entire race track and build open space, road and streets, and buildings and retail and all of things to build it into a neighborhood," Thomas O’Brien, the managing director for HYM Development Group, told WFXT earlier this week.

“Sort of small retail. This won't be large supermarkets or things like that, this will be small restaurants and things like that. Places where people can go enjoy a nice meal and walk through nice parks."

HYM has indicated they’ve had plans on developing a mixed use commercial and residential hub since they first purchased the property in 2017. Among the proposed options would include parks, a hotel, retail and office space and up to 10,000 townhouses. The proposals have resulted in public meetings that have drawn both support and sharp criticism from both the City of Revere and neighboring communities. While the impact on traffic has been a top concern, neighboring residents fear the impact on local communities would be even greater; driving up both the cost of living while reducing the already scarce availability of affordable housing.

The project would not be the first time Suffolk Downs has been selected for a proposed massive redevelopment. Last year, Amazon declined an offer to build their second headquarters on the 1.39 million square foot site. Prior to its sale to HYM, Suffolk Downs had bid to become the first Boston area casino, ultimately losing in favor to Encore Boston Harbor.

Revere Mayor Brian Arrigo has indicated the potential of more jobs generated at Suffolk Downs than now exist in Revere as a whole, pointing out that 10 percent of retail opportunities will be reserved for local businesses. But some city officials aren’t entirely convinced.

“The Suffolk Downs development project is a classic example of excessive overdevelopment,” wrote City Councillor Dan Rizzo in an op-ed for the Revere Journal. “The downside negative impacts of the Suffolk Downs development project far outweigh the benefits… When the Revere portion of the Suffolk Downs project is completed it is going to cost Revere taxpayers an additional $13 million dollars annually to provide basic public services.”

The Revere City Council approved the Suffolk Downs development project in November of last year, but it ultimately awaits final approval from both the Commonwealth and East Boston, which is also included in the project. If approved, the Boston portion of the project is not expected to be completed for another four years, while the Revere portion could begin construction as early as 2020.

Image via Wikimedia Commons / Dominic