The construction on the new Shattuck Hospital – formerly the Newton Pavilion – on East Newton Street in the South End could begin as early as July, with new green spaces and a smart new exterior, but a plan to park transport vans near East Brookline Street neighbors has put the kibosh on any welcome wagons for the new state ownership.
Frank Doyle of the state’s Health and Human Services appeared at an abutters meeting on Tuesday night for the project, which seeks to refurbish the Newton Pavilion over the next three years and move the Shattuck Hospital from Jamaica Plain to the new building in 2024.
That plan has been out in the public realm for some time, but with construction on the way in July, the specifics of the plan are now being shared with the public – including a mostly favorable design of the new Shattuck.
“We are at an extremely exciting juncture for this project,” said Doyle. “This is the stage where in architectural lingo we move from the design development portion to the construction phase.”
Architectural team members from the SLAM firm said they would begin site work as early as July as part of Phase 1, to include demolition and utilities. Phase 2 would begin work on the back alley in October, and then Phase 3 would include the rest of the project such as the exterior envelope and the interior fit-up. That would start in April 2022 and would continue through 2024.
“We have a lot of road in front of us, but we feel we can get there,” said Rick Povino of SLAM.
Yet it wasn’t an interesting new façade or the refreshing green space in the front of the hospital that drew neighborhood attention. Rather, it was a new plan to have Corrections Vans drop prisoner patients off at the old ambulance entrance, and then circle around the back alley and park near the loading dock – directly behind the backyards of neighbors on East Brookline Street.
Most neighbors were not happy losing the green buffer space they’ve had there, and worried that the vans would idle while there and no one would enforce laws requiring them to shut off the vans.
Marc Croteau said he is an abutter, and while he appreciated everything being done at the front, he said there wasn’t much being thought about for the neighbors behind the alley.
“That’s not giving the abutters much thought in taking away what has been a nice buffer from the hospital and the buildings there,” he said. “It was talked about creating dignity for patients and staff at the front, but I think more dignity should be given to the neighbors in back.”
David Meguerdichian, an abutter and an emergency room doctor at BMC, said while signs and cameras might be in place, he didn’t feel the idling law would be enforced – thus subjecting neighbors to exhaust from numerous vans in the daytime hours. The parking spots were pledged to be unoccupied in the evenings and weekends.
“That green space back there that was removed has been a great buffer between the industrial hospital and the neighborhood behind,” he said. “As an ER doctor, I dispute the no idling claim because vans and ambulances are constantly idling…I doubt that if we call the State Police to enforce this it would be a top priority for them to deal with.”
Doyle said the vans begin arriving at 7 a.m. and would all be gone by 4:30 p.m. He said they would have signage and cameras to prevent idling, and a police force there – to include the State Police – to act on any complaints about idling. He said they don’t expect Officers driving the vans to be sitting in them.
“The expectation is the prisoners would be getting treated and the Officers would go into the hospital,” he said, “and not sit in an idling van by the alley.”
Nevertheless, Doyle and others said they would investigate other alternatives, such as negotiating with BMC about their lot next to the DOB Building – which is rarely at full capacity and doesn’t really abut the neighbors. It would also allow neighbors to keep the green space barrier in the alley.
Some more positive news from the project including a front design that brought in a new green space at the cul-de-sac in front of the hospital. The exterior would also feature new treatments with warmer colors and warmer brick – as well as more appropriate lighting.
Architects were excited to announce the removal of the black tempered glass on the Pavilion and replace it with clear glass so the inside and outside are more visible.
“It’s all about the human experience in the building now,” said Neil Martin of SLAM. “The glass is transformed to a clear glass to see and be seen from the Plaza.”
The team has also recommended moving the bus stop from in front of the hospital to just 50 yards down the street under the existing overhang of the hospital – creating a natural safe space from the elements.