Local 17 (Boston, Mass.) members are preparing to begin work on one of the largest real estate projects in Boston history, as well as the largest-ever project labor agreement (PLA)-covered job in Massachusetts: the redevelopment of Suffolk Downs, a former horse racing site on the border of east Boston and neighboring Revere. The 20-year buildout is set to create pipelines to family-sustaining union careers for thousands of local community members, as well as construct affordable housing in the area.
According to the development firm heading the project, HYM Investment Group, “the redevelopment will transform 161 acres into a new resilient mixed-use neighborhood served by two stops on the MBTA Blue Line. Suffolk Downs will create 10,000 new units of housing to meet critical demand in the market, and will provide a mix of senior, workforce, family and young professional housing, including over 900 affordable units.”
And thanks to the PLA negotiated between HYM, its general contractor, John Moriarty & Associates and both the North Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters and Boston’s Building and Construction Trades Council, the Suffolk Downs project will be completely union-built and create 14,000 jobs across every sector of the building trades.
The initial project phase will include approximately 1.39 million square feet of development consisting of the Phase 1 Project (520,000 square feet of corporate use and amenity space); three residential buildings; a portion of the townhomes proposed along Waldemar Avenue totaling over 800 housing units; and construction of the Horseshoe Pond landscaped wetland enhancements and Belle Isle Square public plaza, with over 100,000 square feet of ground floor retail.
“It will be a city within a city,” said SMART Northeast Regional Council Labor Management Representative John Cody. “The local community will benefit from new affordable housing and pathways to new careers, whether it be in retail, hospitality, bio life science or the Boston building trades unions. And for our current members of Local 17, we are starting from a blank canvas, so the many hours of work generated by this project will sustain the quality of life for the families of Local 17 and other trades.”
The power of a union-negotiated project labor agreement is on full display with the Suffolk Downs job: Labor, with the help of former Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and Mass. State Senator (former City Councilor) Lydia Edwards, worked hard to ensure strong equity and local hire requirements are included in the project’s short- and long-term future.
As part of the PLA, HYM committed to providing $2 million in investments to support employment pipelines that will help local residents enter family-sustaining, union careers, both during construction and as part of Suffolk Downs’ future workforce. That includes $1 million in new funding to support the Building Pathways pre-apprenticeship program, in which 90% of enrollees are people of color and 43% are women, and allows direct employment of graduates from Building Pathways.
“Having this PLA in place will help with the growth of the local,” Cody concluded. “Through community standards in place within the PLA, our involvement with various community groups in the area, our outreach to trade schools and career fairs in the city and even on the grounds of the project itself provided by the developer and our partnership with them throughout this whole process. We are hitting the streets and visiting workers, letting them know what a union is all about.”