WSANA Members Will Not Embrace BMC’s New Master Plan

‘H’ stands for horrible idea, according to neighbors at the Worcester Square Area Neighborhood Association (WSANA), in regards to one of the new buildings (Building H) planned for Albany Street within the recently filed Boston Medical Center Institutional Master Plan (IMP).

The IMP is required every 10 years, and BMC filed their plan two weeks ago after preparing the community for the filing since last summer. The IMP contains several rehabilitations and a few new projects that are possible in the next 10 years, but it is a building identified as Building H that has riled WSANA and neighbors on East Brookline Street during a Nov. 26 monthly meeting.

“I’m upset and I’m angry about what has happened,” said Cinda Stoner, of East Brookline Street. “I have lived on this block 40 years. I believe that this Building H on the ramp parcel is beyond what is acceptable…All of us on East Brookline Street are going to be affected. I don’t care if they say it won’t happen for another 15 years…Five years goes by like that. Fifty-feet from the back of my building is the location of this building. The height on Building H is 139 feet above grade – 10 stories. There is absolutely no consideration of East Brookline Street neighbors in this.”

Many on East Brookline Street are concerned in particular about their foundations, as the buildings are from the 1870s and built on fill. The vibrations from construction on the BU Dental Building over the past two years have had some impact, neighbors say, and their worried that construction even closer to them could destroy their homes.

“There should not be support of this BMC IMP,” said Stoner. “It will wreak havoc on the foundations of our homes and the quality of our lives a long time after construction.”

Said Marie O’Shea of East Brookline Street, “Once BMC sold the Doctors Office Building and Newton Pavilion, you didn’t know East Brookline even existed. There is no consideration for East Brookline. We’re not even drawn into the plan…It’s hard to take and it’s crazy.”

Building H was something very new in the IMP, and Bob Biggio, senior vice president of facilities at BMC, said the building came about due to the impending move of the Shattuck Hospital to the Newton Pavilion. The hospital believes that there will be crossover between providers and patients at the Shattuck, and wanted a building adjacent to it for that reason. The building would currently be built on what is a ramp and loading dock behind BU Dental School. Biggio said that land was sold to Leggat McCall with the Newton Pavilion (Leggat McCall turned and sold the building to the state for the Shattuck later on), but BMC retained the right to take the land back if they wanted to build a building. Now, they believe they might exercise that option for Building H.

WSANA President George Stergios said it doesn’t make sense that BMC would sell off property on its campus – such as the Newton Pavilion – and then say it needs more space and needs a building so close to the neighborhood.

“You sold Newton Pavilion and we supported that because we thought you were going away from East Brookline and moving bigger buildings down by where other big buildings are at,” he said. “It seems like there’s a different plan. I know there are legal things and leases but that doesn’t matter.”

Biggio said they didn’t intend to build on the ramp until the Shattuck came to the campus, which was something they had never planned on happening. The previous IMP had concentrated on consolidating properties towards Massachusetts Avenue, and he said that has saved them $25 million per year – mostly in ambulance transport costs and utility efficiencies.

However, there is a lot of expansion in the current IMP, and that’s mostly because the hospital shed space that it now might need as it grows – somewhat unexpectedly.

“What we didn’t take into account was that the population of Boston would have grown like it has since 2010,” he said. “We’re seeing growth that was not expected at that time and those people are seeking medical treatment here. Our patient traffic has grown.”

The IMP process has appointed a nine-person Task Force, with community members Fernando Requena and Desi Murphy on the panel.

Requena said he has thoroughly reviewed the plan, and believes it needs to be defeated.

“One thing that bothers me from the beginning is that the plan is based on premises I don’t agree with – especially that the City of Boston is growing at a certain rate and that means the hospital should grow at a certain rate,” he said. “That’s bogus…I don’t think you need a 14-story building on the corner of Mass Ave and Albany. If this thing gets approved, they have control because they do what they want in the process. We have to minimize this hospital. It’s become a monster that just keeps growing. Enough is enough. Other parts of the city have to pull their weight…I disagree with the philosophy and we need to stop it.”

A first public meeting on the BMC Institutional Master Plan will take place on Wednesday, Dec. 11, at 6 p.m. in 850 Harrison Ave. (Yawkey Center A/B Conference Room).

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