Mass General Hospital’s approximately $2 million, one million square-foot planned expansion of its Cambridge Street campus received approval last Thursday, Oct. 14, from the Boston Planning & Development Agency’s board of directors.
MGH’s proposed new Clinical Building at 55 Fruit St. would consist of two, inter-connected 12-story towers facing Cambridge Street and include new beds and clinical facilities.
A portion of the façade of the 1884 Winchell Elementary School (a.k.a. Ruth Sleeper Hall) at 24 Blossom St. will be preserved and integrated into the new building as part of the project mitigation, thanks to the efforts of Rep. Jay Livingstone and City Councilor Kenzie Bok.
“It was always a great project, but significant community concerns needed to be addressed,” said Rep. Livingstone. “I’m pleased at how open Mass General was to working with the community on their concerns and how many of them were addressed as part of the BPDA process.”
Other community benefits and neighborhood mitigation from the proposed project include commitments to build a headhouse for the long-discussed MBTA Red-Blue line connector onto North Grove Street and to move its current operations out of a maintenance garage at 12 Garden St. to provide new affordable housing opportunities, as well as for the creation of a new community center at 75 Blossom Court – a hospital-owned property that is now home to J Pace & Son, a small grocery store.
“75 Blossom Court is going to be a tremendously needed amenity for the community,” said Rep. Livingstone.
Moreover, Mass General has also committed to investing in a traffic study for Cambridge and Blossom streets, as well as for making modifications to Blossom Street.
“The money Mass General is providing the city to do a roadway study for Cambridge and Blossom streets, and to make improvements on Blossom Street, has been needed for years,” added Rep. Livingstone. “I’m looking forward to that process resulting in improvements to Cambridge and Blossom streets for pedestrians and bicyclists, and that works better for vehicles, ASAP.”
Councilor Bok said ,” I think that the project is going to affect both the West End and Beacon Hill neighborhoods, which I represent, and I was really pleased that Rep. Livingstone and I were able to work with [MGH] to get significant community priorities.
“I think that the new West End community center we expect to open next year will benefit the West End, especially our seniors, and they made some major commitments to historic resources all around the neighborhood, and to improving conditions on Cambridge and Blossom streets, which we all know are much too unsafe today,” added Councilor Bok.
Rob Whitney, chair of the Beacon Hill Civic Association board, commended both Rep. Livingstone and Councilor Bok for working so effectively with MGH and the community to help negotiate the mitigation for the project.
Whitney said the new building design, which includes elements of the Winchell building façade, “looks great,” and that “a lot of West End folks were really happy that some of the history of the West End will be preserved in the same location where it was.”
Mass General’s commitment to working to solve the area’s persistent traffic problem also comes as welcome news to Whitney.
“Traffic on Cambridge Street remains an issue, especially new traffic because of the project, but MGH expressed that they were willing to work with the Beacon Hill Civic Association and neighbors related to traffic on Cambridge Street and how the building would be accessed from Cambridge, Grove, and Blossom streets,” said Whitney. “I look forward to continuing to work with MGH and other neighbors to ultimately resolve the issue.”
The proposed project still must be approved by state health officials before it can move forward.