Musicians, foodies and fitness fanatics have been finding their way to an overlooked corner of Everett. Their destinations: a trampoline park, micro-distillery, craft brewers and recording studio that have replaced scrapyards and machine shops in an industrial area near the banks of the Malden River.
With the Wynn Boston Harbor casino rising nearby, Everett officials say there’s no better time to capture additional development.
Mayor Carlo DeMaria Jr. sees more than 50 acres north of Santilli Highway as ripe for a hotel cluster handling spillover demand from casino visitors, or the long-desired urban site for a New England Revolution stadium. Its proximity to the Malden River has spawned goals of new water transportation connections to Boston and public recreation areas on a riverfront that has long been cut off by factory fences. And a proposed urban renewal district in the early stages of discussion would enable the city to acquire and package large parcels to developers.
“Steve Wynn is going to generate hundreds of thousands of customers and he only has 671 hotel rooms,” DeMaria said. “I believe there’s a possibility for hotels on the Everett waterfront, connecting to the water taxi Wynn has planned.”
A former General Electric factory site on Air Force Road is central to the city’s economic development strategy.
Wynn Resorts acquired the 35-acre site in 2016 and obtained approvals to relocate the Boston Freightliner trucking company, which was displaced by the casino project.
Beyond the trucking site, city officials say the property has more than 10 acres that could support commercial development. The city has hired Boston-based Redgate Real Estate Advisors to perform a market analysis of the property and surrounding neighborhood, with recommendations for future growth.
Redgate declined to comment, but the initial analysis shows potential for “creative industrial” space, housing, hotels and R&D, DeMaria said.
Wynn Resorts has agreed to build a new section of parkland on Malden River, but is expected to sell the bulk of the GE property to another private developer, said Tom Philbin, the city’s director of communications. The riverwalk could eventually connect to extensions built on nearby land owned by National Grid and private landowners, connecting to Wynn’s planned harbor walk between the casino property and state-owned Gateway Park.
A ‘Zone Of Activity And Excitement’
Land-use consultants Utile Inc. are working with the Mystic River Watershed Association on its Malden River Greenway plan, including new parks and paths in Everett, Medford and Malden. The association is also conducting an analysis of river sediment samples to determine the extent of environmental contamination and its effect on recreational uses, Executive Director Patrick Herron said.
“One of the exciting aspects of this creek is the number of people who live nearby and attractions that draw people near,” Herron said. “The trampoline park, the rock climbing studio; these are all locations that tend to attract active young people, and I believe these opportunities and retail space near the river can really create a zone of activity and excitement.”
DeMaria said upgraded pedestrian, bicycle and water transportation options are critical to the success of the neighborhood, accessible by vehicle only by traffic-choked Route 16. Water taxis connecting to Wynn Resorts’ water shuttle could be key to the area’s future, he said.
Wynn plans to run a water shuttle for employees and patrons from the MBTA’s Malden Center station to Wellington Station and the casino every 15 minutes, and has agreed to pay $7.4 million to the MBTA for more frequent Orange Line service.
Such upgrades confirm the strategy of developer Gerry Berberian, who began acquiring parcels in Everett a decade ago, including six parcels off Norman Street occupied by scrapyards and other heavy industrial uses. From the outset, he sought to fill the existing buildings with retail tenants to create a destination.
“Even 10 years ago, people didn’t know where Everett was. We’ve tried to take the heavy, dirty stuff out and replace it with a lot of entertainment to bring people in,” Berberian said.
Night Shift Brewing, Village Restaurant and Bar, Crossfit RBP, Metro Rock Climbing, Down the Road Brewing and Sky Zone trampoline park have combined to attract a new demographic to the densely-settled neighborhood. Berberian is now in negotiations with an operator of the latest wrinkle in bar sports: competitive ax throwing.
“The neighborhood is changing and it’s a whole new world,” he said. “Nobody would take a flier down there. The only reason we could is because we owned the property and we were starting at ground zero in everything we did.”