Joslin Center project to break ground soon

By Rebeca Oliveira
Gazette Staff

LONGWOOD MEDICAL AREA— The Longwood Center tower, formerly known as the Joslin Diabetes Center project, is expected to re-start construction by the end of the year after an eight-year series of delays, the Gazette has learned.

The construction of a nine-story, 425,000-square-foot medical research tower at the intersection of Brookline and Longwood avenues is moving forward after the latest three-year delay. The project has been in the works since 2003.

Ever since the property’s developers, which include Newton-based National Development, halted the project in late 2008 due to the economic downturn, the Longwood Center project has remained a fenced-in lot next to the Joslin Diabetes Center facilities.

Now, National Development is expecting the project to break ground by the end of the year, Sherry Clancy, the project’s manager there, told the Gazette.

“It’s the same project that was permitted in 2008. Now it’s dusted off,” Clancy said.

“A lot of factors came into play, but it was mostly the economy…Now we’re in a better place,” Clancy said of the delay.

The prospective design for the lab, clinical and office building is a large glass box. Other elements of the project include widening sidewalks—but also widening Longwood Avenue. Pilgrim Road would also be widened and made a two-way street. Construction is expected to last three years.

Joslin is expected to lease a portion of the new building, with the remainder of the building expected to be leased to other institutions and life sciences companies.

Joslin Diabetes Center started trying to develop the 1-acre site since 2003. In 2007, it sold the parcel and some previously approved redevelopment plans to a joint venture of Alexandria Real Estate Equities, Inc., National Development, and Charles River Realty Investors for a price said to be significantly higher than $20 million.

The new owners demolished a historic firehouse and apartment building that were located on the site in 2008 before halting construction.

The BRA originally approved the project in 2003, when it would result in a 600,000-square-foot, mixed-use project that included a 30-story residential tower. In 2008, National Development announced at a Longwood Medical Area forum that the project would no longer include the housing tower.

The issue of housing on the site was a contentious one, as Joslin evicted hundreds of residents from the 84-unit Longwood Gardens apartment building at 368-372 Longwood Ave. to make way for the new project.

The 2003 Joslin expansion was first proposed as a partnership with Children’s Hospital Boston. That deal didn’t work out, and Joslin later teamed up with the private developer Boston Properties. In 2007, Joslin backed out of that deal as well and put the site and project up for sale.

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