Suffolk Downs Master Plan

Architect: CBT

Owner: HYM

Location: Boston

This plan seeks to radically transform a 161-acre former horse racing facility in Boston into a highly resilient, transit-oriented, and mixed-use neighborhood. Envisioned as a community ready to embrace the changes of tomorrow, the visionary plan for the storied racetrack relies on future-ready solutions to shape a healthy and sustainable urban ecosystem.

Just 10 minutes from downtown Boston, the site has long stood as a publicly inaccessible disruption to the urban fabric surrounding it. Both ecologically rich and topographically diverse, the area once comprised wetlands and marshes until the land was filled in to accommodate new development in the early 20th century. Today, the site, which bifurcates two communities, remains an obsolete structure with no existing residences or tenants.

The new plan harnesses the site’s natural assets to introduce a vibrant coastal community, including 10,000 housing units; 6 million square feet of life science, office, hotel and retail space; and a wealth of transit infrastructure. Additionally, 40 acres of the site are reserved for public open space. The mixed-use programming will establish a new economic hub for Boston and the surrounding communities, creating new jobs and tax revenue. By integrating the valuable ecological assets with daily activity, the plan envisions the site as a thriving neighborhood ready to face imminent sea-level rise.

The plan arose from a 2017 report by the city that called for the creation of 53,000 new housing units available for a variety of income levels to meet an expected population increase of 91,000 people by 2030. HYM Investment Group, a Boston-based real estate firm, recognized the aged Suffolk Downs as a prime opportunity to address the housing gap and ecological conditions.

From the outset, HYM keyed in on healthy living and equitable, resilient design strategies to accommodate rising water levels, and the team organized a firm-wide design charrette to propose a range of creative solutions. The strong partnership between designer, developer, and community shaped the comprehensive vision, which reconnects the communities and natural assets in a highly dynamic way.

An extensive public engagement and review process—comprising open houses, public meetings, and outreach to Spanish-speaking residents—helped set a new standard for Boston’s development. A public website was created to provide transparency during the planning process and to keep the community informed. In addition, public reviews, approvals, and meetings with key community leaders were held to explore the development’s potential impact on the surrounding communities. Over three years, 466 community conversations ensured every voice was heard in the design and implementation process.

Additional information

Developer: The HYM Investment Group, LLC

Landscape Architect: Stoss

Traffic and Resiliency Engineer: VHB

Civil Engineer: Beals and Thomas

Environmental and Sustainability Consultants: Arup

Renderings: Design Distill

Renderings: Aaron Lorincz Ateliers

Renderings: UVIZ


Sandra Little, FAIA, Chair, Quinn Evans, Detroit

Jeffrey Huber, FAIA, Brooks Scarpa, Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

Lan Ying Ip, AIA, Sasaki, Watertown, Mass.

Michael Davis, AIA, Sanders Pace, Knoxville, Tenn.

Erin Olson Douglas, City of Des Moines, Iowa

Image credits

Suffolk Downs Master Plan-06


Suffolk Downs Master Plan-03

Design Distill

Suffolk Downs Master Plan-04


Suffolk Downs Master Plan-05

Aron Lorincz Ateliers, CBT

Suffolk Downs Master Plan-07

Design Distill