Widett Circle is in the news again. For those less familiar with this 20-acre industrial site, it is located between South Boston and Dorchester and is surrounded by I-93, access roads and train tracks for the MBTA. It is currently home to wholesale food distributors and other light industrial businesses.
In recent years the site has been reimagined for the City of Boston 2024 Olympic bid, as a site for a new mid-sized stadium for the local professional soccer team and more recently as a potential site for Amazon’s HQ2. None of these pitches came to pass, but last week new owners of this site pitched the idea of transforming Widett Circle into a regional shipping hub for Amazon. The following day Globe columnest, Shirley Leung wrote an article, challenging the city to think bigger before committing to any significant development.
When this site was studied for part of the City of Boston 2024 Olympic bid, it was determined that a platform would need to be built over the working train tracks and MBTA rail yard and something would need to be done to prevent flooding in the future due to rising ocean levels. The estimate for this work was $1 billion. Ultimately, the Boston bid was rescinded and the necessary infrastructure work that will be required was ignored. Fastforward five years later and a new proposal to convert this into a shipping hub for Amazon has come forth. However, Globe columnest, Leung, has pushed back daring the city think bigger and bolder before committing this prime real estate.
On the one hand I agree with Leong. This space could help tranform a part of the city. It is bordered to the east by an ever evolving and developing South Boston and to the south by an ever expanding South Bay complex. The site has the benefit of a new commuter rail stop and it has great access to the highway. However, redeveloping this site for the future comes at a cost of $1 billion or more just to get the site ready and thus far there have been no visionaries to inspire the city.
Alternatively, if we need to develop a shipping hub this is a great location. It is cutoff from surrounding neighborhoods. The traffic this would generate can be addressed by adding better MBTA access and access ramps to I-93 to remove congestion from secondary roads. Lastly, while a shipping center may not generate 6-figure jobs, it would create many blue collar jobs – something this city desperately needs. Not everyone will work in bioscience, technology and finance and if we want Boston to thrive it has to be home to people from all walks of life and all professions.
In the end, I’ve concluded if there was an opportunity to reimagine this space, I’d like to hear about it, but in the absence of that, updating an existing industrial site into a state-of-the-art shipping center that will create hundreds of jobs (if not more) seems like a good idea. Boston will reap more tax revenue, the site will generate more jobs and the city will benefit from consolidating an Amazon shipping center into one space that will have minimal impact on surrounding communities.
What do you think?