Quincy Center project 'paused,' councilors ask why
GREG DERR/The Patriot Ledger
A new park along the relocated Town Brook in Quincy Center. City Councilors Doug Gutro and Brian McNamee are raising questions about the recent pause in the $1.6 billion Quincy Center redevelopment project.
Street-Works Development, the primary developer behind the project, has put construction on hold while it re-designs Merchants Row, the first major phase of development. The private developer said rising construction costs in the Boston area and two building purchases over the summer prompted them to put a halt on construction only four months after they broke ground.
“No one has pulled out. No money has been removed,” Richard Heapes, a partner for Street-Works, said to the city council Monday night. “But we are in a pause while we collectively tackle how we’re going to get this to a place that makes it a reasonable investment.”
Although Heapes and members of Mayor Thomas Koch’s administration asserted that the pause in construction is no cause for concern, City Councilors Doug Gutro and Brian McNamee were more skeptical. Both raised concerns about the developer’s decision to abandon its plan for a 15-story steel-framed apartment building on Chestnut Street, and build a six-story, wood-framed complex instead.
“You had a beautiful 15-story building that would have offered vistas of the Blue Hills, Quincy Bay and Boston, and we stepped away from that,” McNamee said. “I can’t think of anything that’s more saleable than that kind of a structure to set a perfect tone for this development. When you propose smaller structures, wood structures, it’s starting to look like the the Weymouth Air Station housing model.”
Gutro said he was concerned the changes in Merchants Row reduces the amount of construction jobs and overall revenue created by the project.
“I’m a little bit concerned about the financing piece, and I’m just looking for you to shed a little bit of light,” Gutro said to Heapes.
Heapes said Merchants Row – the block including Chestnut Street, Cottage Avenue and the 1400 block of Hancock Street – needs to be re-designed because construction costs in the Boston area have gone up 37 percent in recent years and are expected to go up more by the end of 2014. Also, he said another reason for the re-design is the developer’s two pending property purchases – at 14 Cottage Ave. and 1442 Hancock St. – that will allow them to add more retail space to Merchants Row and double the overall footprint of Step 1 in the four-step downtown plan.
Heapes said up to $70 million in equity has already been invested toward the project by Street-Works, development partner Twining Properties, Quincy Mutual Fire Insurance and LaSalle Investment Management. Heapes assured councilors that the project would deliver the same end result that was promised when the developer and city signed a land disposition agreement in 2010 – a revitalized downtown with more than 3 million square feet of new residential, retail, office, entertainment and educational space.