Transit-Oriented Housing Fills a Need in the Boston Region

Spring 2022 Issue
By: Mike Henehan
The Abby in North Quincy, Massachusetts, is located on a site directly above a Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) Red Line subway station. Bozzuto

A new development will provide easy access to commuter rail.

Just south of Boston, the city of Quincy is undergoing a renaissance. While its growing business community, golf courses and critically acclaimed dining scene are drawing new residents, an important aspect of Quincy’s rebirth is its convenient location to mass transit, which allows commuters to access jobs all over the Boston metropolitan area.

Seven years ago, Bozzuto, a Washington, D.C.-based real estate company, began discussions with Hingham, Massachusetts-based Atlantic Development to explore the possibility of building in Quincy. Soon after, they saw the potential in an underutilized site directly above the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) Red Line station in North Quincy. Bozzuto and Atlantic Development then teamed up and moved forward with the project. They eventually broke ground in 2019 on what is now The Abby, a 700,000-square-foot multifamily housing development.

Third Time’s a Charm

 The seven-acre MBTA Red Line parking lot that is now home to The Abby was originally zoned for office use in the 1990s. Plans then shifted to a large movie theatre megaplex, but that never came to fruition.

In April 2016, the MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board granted lease rights to Bozzuto and Atlantic Development for a mixed-use development that would include housing, a new parking garage that is shared between The Abby and MBTA commuters, and retail space. Due to the complexity of the project, it was nearly four years from the original MBTA invitation to bid in July 2015 to the groundbreaking in February 2019.

Bozzuto worked closely with the city of Quincy, the MBTA and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) to structure a public-private partnership that provides tax revenue, jobs, a $4.8 million commitment to Quincy’s Affordable Housing Trust and ground rent for 99 years. (According to an April 2016 report from the Quincy Patriot Ledger, the 99-year lease is expected to generate about $230 million for MBTA.) The agreement also includes improvements to public spaces within neighboring North Quincy High School and drainage infrastructure improvements for the city. 

The Abby development is arriving as Massachusetts is taking steps to increase transit-oriented development. In January 2021, an economic-development bill that was signed into law requires communities in the state that are served by MBTA to provide “at least one zoning district of reasonable size in which multifamily housing is permitted as of right” within a short walk from a transit facility. (See box below.)

An article in the Boston Business Journal in September 2021 indicated that more than a third of the renters at The Abby will use public transportation to go into Boston for work.

During the early stages of the project, it was imperative to maintain safe and clear access to the North Quincy Station because construction was taking place over the public pathway used by commuters to access trains. The configuration of the area constantly changed throughout the course of construction, so Bozzuto was in close contact with local and state government as well as MassDOT and the MBTA to ensure there was a safe path from the main roadway to the station.

In 2020, Bozzuto encountered several challenges as the construction industry struggled during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Work on The Abby slowed down during this time, but it never stopped.

The Community

Named after influential first lady, human rights advocate and long-time Quincy resident Abigail Adams, The Abby is a three-building residential development community that features 610 modern luxury rental apartments and 20,000 square feet of amenity space. The outdoor amenities include a rooftop pool, grilling stations, fire pits and a courtyard with pergolas and phone charging stations to enable outdoor work. Inside, there is a solarium with a library and kitchen for group entertaining, a wellness center, a lobby lounge with a two-story fireplace and a pet spa. 

The development also includes approximately 50,000 square feet of ground-floor retail including a Target, which opened in October 2021. The parking lot adjacent to North Quincy Station contains 1,519 spaces for MBTA commuters, residents and retail patrons. As part of its ongoing focus on sustainability, Bozzuto included electric vehicle charging stations within the garage, and The Abby has earned Green Globes Certification, a sustainability certification customized to meet the needs of individual projects.

Bozzuto partnered with RD Jones and Associates on the interior design of the three interconnected buildings. Bozzuto also worked with Boston Art to choose a series of pieces from local artists to incorporate into its design choices. 

Currently, Phase 3 of construction is underway with the first and second of its three buildings, 255 and 285 Hancock Street, completed and almost fully leased. Leasing has started for Building 3, 225 Hancock Street. 

The project is Bozzuto’s first New England development. The company also serves as the property manager for The Abby. Callahan Construction is the general contractor. 

Mike Henehan is president of Bozzuto Development Company and Bozzuto Homes, Inc.

Massachusetts Aims to Boost Development Commuter Rail Lines

A new zoning law requires communities that are served by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (in short, a majority of the municipalities in the eastern third of the state) to provide for multifamily housing in proximity to mass transit. The details:

  • A minimum gross density of 15 units per acre.
  • The zoning district can’t be located more than half a mile from a commuter rail station, subway station, ferry terminal or bus station.
  • No age restrictions on tenants.
  • Must be suitable for families with children.

According to the law, communities that don’t adapt the zoning law would lose access to some state funding programs.