Construction at 800 Huntington Ave., the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary’s (MEEI) new facility, is due to start by July 1.
MEEI would be the tenant of the building being developed by The Beal Companies. Beal is planning to expand the existing two-story structure by adding a garage adjacent to the building and erecting a third story to cover both the garage and the existing building. MEEI would operate out-patient clinics and surgeries, office space and a small café and retail area, mostly for in-building personnel.
Construction should be completed in about 14 months, said Peter Spellios, the project manager at Beal, and further customization of the building’s interior should take another four months.
Truck traffic is going to be strictly monitored to reduce and if possible, prevent, traffic delays and greater inconveniences, said Patrick Spellman, a representative from Suffolk Construction, Beal’s contractor.
The trucks are only allowed on-site between 7 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. and can only make deliveries through Frawley Street. This is to minimize disturbances to neighborhood traffic, Spellman said.
Pat Flaherty, a Mission Hill resident and senior project manager at Mission Hill Neighborhood Housing Services, requested that the trucks keep that schedule during the duration of the project. Spellios expressed the same hope.
During construction, the parking lane in front of the building will be sacrificed to create a protected pedestrian walkway a safe distance from the construction site. The bus stop directly in front of the building will be moved a block, between Mission and Wait streets.
Parking on the opposite side of Frawley Street should not be affected, the developers said.
The developers announced that no blasting is expected during construction. Many of the audience members present expressed relief at this announcement.
The garage, originally planned to house up to 250 vehicles, will be much smaller than allowed for in the plans presented to the Boston Redevelopment Authority last fall. Spellios announced that the revised plans only call for 140 to 150 spaces.
The developers also announced that they will be using private funds only for this project, having missed the deadline to apply for Recovery Zone Bonds as authorized by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), in response to a question from resident Alison Pultinas.
The City Council had approved $55 million in tax exempt Recovery Zone Bonds through Boston’s Industrial Development Financing Authority for the demolition and construction project in November. Since the developers missed the application deadline, the bonds will expire under the federal “use it or lose it policy.”
The Recovery Zone Bonds were created to support public and private developments by offering favorable borrowing rates for projects within areas designated as “Recovery Zones.”
Recovery Zones are areas “designated by a state, county or large city as having significant poverty, unemployment, rate of home foreclosures, or general distress.”
That doesn’t sound like a building project that tears down housing to re-fit a research facility into clinics, but Gov. Deval Patrick issued a 2009 executive order that declared the whole City of Boston a Recovery Zone.
Flaherty requested that any salvageable building materials be donated to the Boston Resource Center. Spellios replied that the developers “would be happy to.”
Flaherty also proposed a monthly recurring meeting to address any further construction mitigation measures as they become apparent.
Spellios assured the audience that the building at 800 Huntington Ave. would never have a rooftop billboard again. The current building previously had a large billboard on its roof, which was disliked by many Hill residents.
The current building is a two-story concrete structure built over 50 years ago. The building most recently served as the home of the Immune Disease Institute, formerly known as the Center for Blood Research Institute.
The grade of Mission Hill behind the building would cause most of the proposed garage to be underground or invisible. Although the proposed building would be three stories tall at Huntington Avenue, it would be a one-story building at Stockwell Street, at the back of the property.
Beal proposed a much larger project in 2008 for an eight-story laboratory/commercial building that was scrapped in large part because of neighborhood disapproval. State Rep. Jeffrey Sánchez and Mayor Thomas Menino both spoke out against the original project repeatedly at the time.