Development eyed for Boston site near Chinatown, Leather District

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BOSTON – Planning to move state highway offices from their perch above the central artery tunnels near Boston’s South Station, city and state officials said Tuesday that they want to redevelop the 5.5 acre site, potentially to create affordable housing and new business space.

The site sits at the south end of the city’s Leather District and the eastern corner of Chinatown. The move is a high-profile example of an effort Gov. Charlie Baker hopes to spur around Massachusetts, converting state-owned land into housing and economic development opportunities.

The state Transportation Department’s District 6 headquarters at 185 Kneeland St. would be relocated or replaced, and according to a statement from Baker and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh. They say the site offers the potential for up to 1.5 million to 2 million square feet of redevelopment. A steam-generating plant run by Veolia North America at 165 Kneeland St. would be replaced by a scaled down facility on the site.

“Identifying prospects to redevelop and repurpose underutilized state property to advance economic growth and affordable housing is a valuable avenue to building stronger communities and opportunities for the people of Massachusetts,” Baker said in the statement.

“This location is ideal for transit-oriented redevelopment and we look forward to the community process which will help determine how the property will be used in the future,” said Stephanie Pollack, the state transportation secretary. “We know the site can be put to better uses which will enhance the vitality of the surrounding neighborhood and spur economic growth in the adjacent business district while generating own-source revenue that MassDOT can reinvest in our transportation system.”

“A broad set of goals will be developed for the site with the engagement of community leaders and residents,” according to the statement, and that may include additional open space on the site. A 6 p.m. meeting on March 2 is planned to gather public comments on the uses for the site, in the 1st floor conference room at 185 Kneeland St.