June 12, 2007
North Point Development in Disarray, Developers Turn on Each Other
By Eli Beckerman, MCHC
Hailed as a model of urban smart growth and an exemplary “corporate community”, the massive billion-dollar North Point project in East Cambridge, Somerville, and Charlestown is in disarray. Despite much official fanfare and the legislature’s approval of $130 million in taxpayer subsidized MassDevelopment bonds, the project is now revealed to have made little actual progress over its 6 and 1/2 year troubled history.
As a result of lawsuits filed by development partners against each other, new information is emerging that raises major questions about the overall soundness of the project. The B&M; Corporation, the owner of the land, has filed suit against its North Point development partner Spaulding & Slye/Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL), and JLL has answered with a suit of their own. The startling complaints, available below, reveal the project’s previously concealed dirty laundry.
The project’s neglect of public process and environmental concerns had already resulted in one lawsuit brought by community advocates seeking compliance with environmental laws. When the Supreme Judicial Court ruled in favor of the citizens, the Patrick administration filed legislation to roll back the environmental statutes and eliminate the need for the environmental permits in question. This effort, which would undo the court victory by the Association of Cambridge Neighborhoods, has raised concerns about conflicts of interest due to North Point’s close ties to Patrick Administration officials.
Citizen groups have suggested that North Point might have fared better if it had received the Chapter 91 public review the SJC ruled it should have had in the first place. At the current time piles of dirt on the site await inspection and proper processing. Neighbors worry that if development is halted now there will be a dust bowl of potentially hazardous soils – waiting for the wind to disperse at the North Point site and beyond.
North Point developers and Beacon Hill politicians have developed such intimate relationships that it is often difficult to tell them apart. Two high-ranking Patrick Administration officials came to their positions from the ranks of North Point developers. They have toured the state touting real estate mega-projects as vital “economic development” enterprises, which deserve to be showered with taxpayer subsidies and expedited with waivers from environmental laws and public processes. But according to MCHC’s John Andrews, ”the shakiness of the North Point project suggests that building our economic future on such projects is a highly questionable strategy. The Legislature is investing scarce public funds in poorly conceived insider-driven mega-projects. This leads to the neglect of community-driven economic development that could provide a much sounder basis for jobs and future economic security”.
April 9th Complaint against B&M; Corporation (filed in Delaware)2007-04-09 JLL Delaware Complaint.pdf
April 25th B&M; Answer and Counterclaims (filed in Delaware)2007-04-25 B+M Delaware Answer.pdf
April 27th B&M; Complaint against JLL (filed in Boston)2007-04-27 B+M Boston Complaint.pdf
Partners’ row may threaten project
NorthPoint creators suing each other over payments, contracts
By Thomas C. Palmer Jr., Boston Globe | May 5, 2007
Legal battle could mean NorthPoint’s headed south
By Scott Van Voorhis
Boston Herald Business Reporter
Friday, May 4, 2007