PIC Hears Changes Proposed for Mass General Expansion

The city’s Public Improvement Commission (PIC) heard a new business matter on proposed changes related to Mass General Hospital’s planned expansion, including the discontinuance of North Anderson Street as a public street, at its April 28 hearing, which took place virtually.

The proposed project will comprise two connected towers – 14 and 13 stories, respectively – sitting atop a podium facing Cambridge Street on the hospital’s main campus. Completion of the first tower is slated for late 2026, said Nick Haney of MGH Planning and Construction, while construction of the second tower should be finished in 2030.

A rendering of the proposed expansion of Mass General Hospital’s main campus.

The long duration for construction is largely due to sequencing the project phases, which, said Haney, allows the existing above-ground garage to remain open until the completion and opening of the new subterranean garage.

Howard Mosier, director of land engineering for VHB, a Boston-based civil engineering company, said “one of the most vital PIC actions” of the project will be the discontinuance of North Anderson Street as a public street; this will allow for the creation of the new pedestrian-oriented North Anderson Street Arcade, which will connect connect Cambridge and Parkman streets while providing a new main pedestrian entrance to the main campus on Cambridge Street.

A proposed two-story overhead connection would  link the heart of the new building to Parkman Street and portions North Grove Street. The lower level would be open to everyone, said Mosier, while the upper level would be designated for patients to respect their privacy.

Down Parkman Street to the west, a new tunnel connection would also be created to move trash, goods, and services, but not people, so as not to interfere with pedestrians at the “street-network level,” added Mosier.

The installation of a private drainage system across Parkman Street is among the sustainability measures that will be incorporated into the project, which, said Mosier, will have the capacity to recapture “thousands of gallons of water” for reuse.

A new ADA-compliant passenger loading zone for hospital on Parkman Street would be the only one  provided curbside for the facility, added Mosier.

Moreover, an existing taxi stand on Cambridge Street would be eliminated to create new bike accommodations, which comes after  “numerous rounds” of conversations between the project team and the Boston Transportation Department, according to Haney.

The project team will need to find a new location for the taxi stand, said Haney, who added that removing the stand from its current location “was an effort to improve the flow of traffic through North Grove Street.”

Louise Thomas, a long-serving West End Civic Association and longtime resident of that neighborhood who also served on the city’s Impact Advisory Group (IAG) for the Article 80 process for the project, said this was the first time she had heard any mention of eliminating the taxi stand.

(The proposed elimination of the taxi stand is a recent development, which was first broached after the conclusion of the IAG process, replied Haney.)

As a volunteer at the hospital, Thomas said she knows that the taxi stand sees a lot of use from elderly patients visiting the hospital, including 165 Cambridge St., and she underscored just how essential this amenity is for them.

Rob Whitney, chair of the Beacon Hill Civic Association board of directors, said he’s concerned about traffic turning left onto Cambridge Street and heading east to end up on North Grove Street.

Whitney said he wants to  see a “long-term strategy” for diverting traffic from Cambridge and North Grove streets to Blossom Street.

Mosier responded that the project team had looked at a cross-section of North Grove Street, where people think they can park on account of its “fairly narrow three lanes.”

To remedy this situation, the street would have two regular striped traffic lanes, along with a protected bike lane, he said, “to eliminate driver confusion and parking behind the taxi stand.”

Amy Cording, director of engineering for the BTD, said that the intersection of Blossom and Parkman streets is now being prepped for future signalization, “with interconnecting handholds, etc.” so she asked that this be incorporated into the “specific repair plans” for the project.

Sarah Leung, architectural access project coordinator for Mayor Michelle Wu’s Commission for Persons with Disabilities, asked that the project team notify her office if any available parking spaces become available within the construction zone.

Leung also requested apex ramps at the Parkman Street crosswalk be changed to directional ramps, as well as for “compliance of reciprocal ramps on North Grove Street as [the project team] reconstructs ramps on the project site.”

Jascha Franklin-Hodge, the city’s chief of streets, asked that the BTD and project team finalize a construction management plan, which outlines improvements for pedestrian and bike access along Cambridge Street for the duration of the project.

Mosier responded the plan is “an extremely active work in progress,” and that “we’re down to inches here.”

City Councilor Kenzie Bok said both she and Rep. Jay Livingstone (who couldn’t attend the virtual hearing) supported MGH’s application with the city.

The Blossom Street rebuild, which includes widening the intersection at Blossom and Parkman streets, is of the utmost importance to them, said Councilor Bok, because of the large number of pedestrians crossing the street there, especially at the “substandard”  crossing at Parkman Street.

MGH will allocate $4 million for the Blossom Street rebuild to complement the $2 million earmarked for this purpose in the city’s capital budget, which, she said, “has been languishing for about 10 years.”

Moreover, North Grove and Cambridge streets has been the site of frequent vehicular accidents due to “visual lines being obscured,” and because of queues of cars backing up and creating issues for drivers turning into Charles Circle, said Councilor Bok.

Councilor Bok said $250,000 has been earmarked for this intersection, and that she and Rep. Livingstone would like to see a new signal installed there A.S.A.P.

The applicant is scheduled to return for the next PIC hearing, which will take place virtually on May 12.  

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