Mass. Eye and Ear Expansion Plans Draw Fiery Response from Neighbors

January 25, 2011
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By Dan Murphy

The proposed expansion of the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary campus drew a fiery response Wednesday as neighbors asserted that the process lacked sufficient public feedback.

“You need the input of the community. Without that, you’ll have a disaster,” Beacon Hill resident Peter Thomson said at the public meeting, sponsored by the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA).

According to Bob Biggio, the hospital’s vice president of development of facilities, the expansion would consist of three projects, including a new approximately research facility at 325 Cambridge St. to replace of three outdated buildings at 307-311 Cambridge St. and 313 Cambridge St.; an annex to the John Jeffries House on Charles Street; and the renovation and expansion of the main clinical building at 243 Charles St. The proposal would result in 125,000 square-feet of net growth for the hospital.

State Rep. Marty Walz called the planned expansion “incremental” and “lacking in vision,” adding that the hospital should have allowed the public to vet alternatives to the proposal before the public comment period ends on Feb. 17.

“How can we collaborate when we don’t know what the alternatives are to what exists?” Walz asked hospital officials. “Don’t do it backwards because you’re just making things harder on yourselves.”

Beacon Hill Civic Association (BHCA) Chair John Achatz expressed concern over the project’s impact on parking.

“Not necessarily that every problem needs to be solved, but you need to address long-term parking,” Achatz said. “I think there are some big issues we have to come to grip with.”

Several in attendance expressed concern that the John Jeffries annex would obstruct access to a loading dock, located at the rear of Savenor’s Market.

Biggio named Savenor’s as a possible tenant at the Jeffries annex, countering claims that neighbors were opposed to new retail space at that location.

“We’ve heard a lot of support for that site, and that retail space is desired by Beacon Hill residents,” Biggio said.

BRA Senior Project Manager Sonal Gandhi urged neighbors to submit their opinions in writing to the city on the project.

“Part of the process is to gather input,” Gandhi said. “I encourage you very strongly to talk to us.”

Written comments can be submitted by Feb. 17 to:

Ms. Sonal Gandhi

Boston Redevelopment Authority

One City Hall Square

Boston, MA 02201

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