Boston — In an effort to fund expansion of the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center currently in the Seaport, Gov. Charlie Baker proposed the sale of the Hynes Convention Center this past Monday.
Gov. Baker’s petition would authorize proceeds from the sale of the Hynes property in the Back Bay towards redevelopment efforts for the 2.1 million square foot BCEC, including 200,000 square feet of additional operating space. Officials from Baker’s administration indicated the Hynes facility would cost an additional $200 million in investments over the next decade to maintain its current operational state.
Among the proposed expansions to the BCEC include a 100,000 square foot exhibit hall and approximately 44,000 square feet in additional office space. The plan will be presented before a board of directors meeting of the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority, the state agency that currently oversees the two properties, this coming Thursday.
"Boston is a popular convention destination, and there has been market demand for larger, more flexible event space in recent years,” Baker said in a statement. “This expansion will meet demand, unlock greater economic potential, and support the creation of new jobs.”
"Our plan will make Boston's convention space more efficient and maximize new economic opportunities in both the Seaport and the Back Bay, benefiting the City of Boston and the Commonwealth."
The proposal comes just four years after the newly elected Gov. Baker halted legislation for a proposed $1 billion expansion of the BCEC financed by state bonds. "Plunging ahead now, when the data on the expansion’s feasibility is mixed, combined with the change of leadership at the MCCA would be irresponsible," Gov. Charlie Baker said at the time. Baker’s office indicated the new proposal is more consistent with the Convention Center Authority’s current mission.
“When we contemplate major capital investments, our Administration’s priority is to pursue those projects in a fiscally responsible way that is a win-win for everyone,” said state Administration and Finance Secretary Michael Heffernan. “Financing a BCEC expansion with proceeds from the Hynes sale will ensure that the Commonwealth enjoys the benefit of modern convention facilities without imposing more debt on taxpayers over the long term, while acting as a catalyst for private investment.”
Not everyone is on board with the Governor’s proposal. “Is this just going to be another bunch of luxury condos and luxury apartments,” said Martyn Roetter of the Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay. “Or are we going to actually get some affordable housing?”
“We are in a global economy, so we need to maintain a competitive edge,” indicated Boston City Councilor Michael Flaherty indicated. “That said, I have a lot of questions, and want to make sure that there are no job losses for those currently working at the Hynes.”
“As Boston continues to serve as a regional hub for economic activity and growth, the state’s proposal presents a new opportunity to expand the Convention Center and bring a significant piece of land back to Boston, benefiting the South Boston Waterfront and city overall,” said Mayor Marty Walsh.
Walsh’s statement comes less than three months after the announcement of a $435 million development effort by Amazon in the Seaport, in addition to the proposed $950 million EchelonSeaport mixed use complex currently in construction.
Image via Wikimedia Commons / Cryptic C62