Bulldozing Quincy, Mass - and Building it Back Up

Most cities don't get the chance to start from scratch. But Quincy, Mass. plans to raze most of its 50-acre center and build it anew with the aid of a private developer's upfront funding - a plan that may rewrite the rules of urban development.
April 11, 2011, 9am PDT | Rebecca Sanborn Stone
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If all goes as planned, Quincy, MA will soon begin to bulldoze its city center, and a private firm (Street-Works Development of White Plains) will begin a 10-year process of building it back up.

In this unusual public-private partnership, Street-Works will pay for all the public improvements upfront (including $289 million in new infrastructure like sewers, utilities and roadways), start building ("$1.3 billion of new private housing, retail, offices, entertainment, hotels and parking" is planned), and then lease out the space. Eventually the City will take over the infrastructure bill by selling bonds and begin to earn some income from the property.

"We couldn't afford to do this on our own, this quickly," said Mayor Thomas P. Koch. This funding mechanism may offer an opportunity for other cities that want to revitalize in a down economy.

"In the 21st century, innovative mayors will have to redefine development rules, and it's commendable that this mayor is willing to take the risk," said Thomas Murphy, a senior fellow at the Urban Land Institute and a former mayor of Pittsburgh. "If Quincy succeeds, it's a game changer."

It's not without risk; a similar project in nearby Boston resulted in an empty block when the developer pulled out. But officials and the developer are convinced that opportunity abounds in Quincy - a waterfront city just a few subway stops from downtown Boston and located along a major interstate - where jobs and the economy are expected to rebound quickly.

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Published on Tuesday, April 5, 2011 in New York Times
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