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Quincy celebrates progress on downtown redevelopment

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  December 20, 2012 04:37 PM

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Quincy officials say that in the past two weeks, major milestones have been reached for several of the projects related to the downtown redevelopment.

According to Planning Director Dennis Harrington, the roadway portion of the Adams Green project has been submitted to the state for approval. Additionally, the city has received final permitting approval for reconstructing the Town Brook, and has received Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act approval to begin construction in the downtown.

All three developments are necessary to ensure the $1.6 billion downtown redevelopment stays on track, bringing the city one step closer to a revitalized downtown.

“[This is] probably the biggest grouping of positive accomplishments that we’ve seen. This has been worked on for more than two, three years. Here we are,” Harrington said.

The biggest approval is perhaps the state secretary of environmental affair’s MEPA approval, which allows the city to go forward with the first stage of construction in the downtown.

The third-largest MEPA project that the state has seen – behind the Seaport District in Boston and Cape Wind – the approval was paramount, as the city’s development partner Beal/Street-Works hoped to begin construction early next year.

The first stage of private construction on “Merchants Row” will occur on one block of the downtown contained within Hancock Street, Chestnut Street, and Cottage Avenue, and will contain two apartment buildings and an underground parking garage.

Harrington hopes to meet with the Planning Board in January to issue final approval for the work.

“[There] will be reporting with written reports for peer review of garage, utilities, and architecture, but there are no impediments of moving forward with this project,” Harrington said at a City Council meeting Monday.

Yet all along, the city has had to complete three major public infrastructure projects – costing an estimated $50 million - to make the downtown a reality.

Funding through the state – in both grants and specialty loans - has been secured, and though work has been ongoing with each of these things, the projects are starting to progress rapidly, Harrington said.

The furthest along is the relocation and "daylighting" of the Town Brook, which received final permitting approval from the Department of Environmental Protection in the last few weeks. Daylighting involves exposing covered portions of the brook to the sunlight.

Though Quincy Environmental Network has a pending appeal in Norfolk Superior Court, all regulatory appeals have concluded, and changes to the plans have been approved.

While the city has been constructing a new space for the brook for the last several months, the recent approval enables the city to connect this new channel to the brook, officially moving it.

“We’ve been building this thing for two years,” Harrington said. “We’re 60 percent complete. But they’ve given us plan approval for the last link.”

The first part of the Adams Green project has also reached a 100 percent design plan milestone, and has been sent off to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation for approval.

The project will eventually turn the land in front of City Hall into a park space, but before that design work can get under way, the city needs approval of the newly relocated street.

“MassDOT has under review, and it’s on the web, their 100 percent design plans, which include design of subsurface utilities, pavement, sidewalks, curbstones, street lighting…and on top of that they will layer a park around the church and city hall. But you have to do the underground first…its not a plan, it’s a series of plans, one layer on top of the other,” Harrington said.

The hope is to find a contractor to do the work by January to start reconfiguring the roadway around Quincy Center.

The final infrastructure project – creation of a bridge over the MBTA tracks near Burgin Parkway, is also progressing, Harrington said.

The Department of Public Utilities held a public hearing on the matter in November, and are expecting to issue an approval for the project by January.

“It still needs to be designed, and the city is moving forward,” Harrington said.

Though there are preliminary designs, a more detailed design will be done in February.

“There is a critical rush to get design completed and have MassDOT put it out to bid. There’s a rush, but you can only do so many things. We’re jugglers, but we’re not that good,” Harrington said.

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