Update: Good News for Public Waterfront Access in Everett

State holds shopping center owner accountable for public access violations

The owner of the Gateway Shopping Center has failed to provide legally required public access to the riverfront for 20 years. Photo: Nick Allen [CC-BY-SA-4.0 via Wikimedia Commons]

In May, we highlighted the Gateway Center in Everett and how the shopping center owner, DDR Gateway LLC (“DDR”), has failed in its legal obligations to provide public access to waterfront areas – in this case, the Mystic River. CLF wrote to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) asking them to hold the company accountable and make things right for the people of Everett.

We are happy to report that MassDEP promptly responded to our request and has issued a “Notice of Noncompliance” to DDR requiring them to make good on their public obligations.

Shopping Center Has Failed in Its Obligations – and Is Preventing Wynn Casino from Meeting Theirs

To recap, DDR promised to provide greater public access to this part of the waterfront in exchange for a state license (Waterways License) to build its Gateway Center shopping complex on tidelands. Tidelands are held in trust by the state for the benefit of the public. That means developments built on them are required to provide public access and benefit.

As part of its license, DDR agreed to create a waterfront park, as well as a public bike path. However, 20 years after the shopping center opened, that bike path hasn’t been built, and the waterfront park lacks the promised lookout platform, signage, and lighting. It also fails to provide access for people with disabilities. DDR’s obstruction has also been preventing its neighbor, Wynn’s Encore Boston Harbor casino, from fulfilling its own license obligations to provide public access on its site.

The State Agrees with CLF and Takes Action

On June 25, MassDEP issued a “Notice of Noncompliance” to DDR. The notice states that DDR has failed to comply with numerous conditions of its Waterways License and requires the majority of violations to be corrected within 30 days. DDR has an additional seven months to construct and open for public use the long-awaited bike path. Failure to comply with MassDEP’s order could result in criminal prosecution and/or civil penalties for DDR.

In a big win for public access rights, the people of Everett will finally get the access and amenities they are entitled to at this site.

CLF applauds the swift action of MassDEP in enforcing the laws that protect public rights in tidelands. DDR is hardly the only bad actor in the fight to enforce public access along Massachusetts’s waterfront areas. We hope MassDEP’s action here will serve as a warning to others who are violating the law. But we’ll be keeping watch in the meantime.

Before you go... CLF is working every day to create real, systemic change for New England’s environment. And we can’t solve these big problems without people like you. Will you be a part of this movement by considering a contribution today? If everyone reading our blog gave just $10, we’d have enough money to fund our legal teams for the next year.