Residents, Councillors Critical Of Quincy Hospital Site Plan

FoxRock Properties has proposed constructing 598 apartments on the site of the former Quincy Medical Center. All buildings currently on site, except for the administration building seen at center, would be demolished. Rendering courtesy FoxRock Properties.

FoxRock Properties has proposed constructing 598 apartments on the site of the former Quincy Medical Center. All buildings currently on site, except for the administration building seen at center, would be demolished. Rendering courtesy FoxRock Properties.

By SCOTT JACKSON

More than a dozen area residents, the local neighborhood association and five city councillors voiced their concerns over a developer’s proposal to build nearly 600 residential units on the site of Quincy Medical Center.

The project, they said, would be too dense for the Hospital Hill neighborhood with apartment buildings placed too close to abutting homes.

The Planning Board on Wednesday held its first meeting on FoxRock Properties’ plan to place 598 apartments and 5,000 square feet of retail space on the 14.4-acre hospital site at 144 Whitwell St. The project also includes 802 parking spaces, nearly all of them in garages beneath the residential buildings. The board spent more than two and a half hours listening to the applicant and then members of the public, and will hold a second public hearing on the matter at 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 5.

FoxRock has proposed tearing down every building on the hospital site, except for the administration building in front, which would be renovated for retail use. They are proposing to build 36 row houses, 17 townhouses and four six-story apartment buildings on the property.

FoxRock’s Jason Ward said his team welcomed feedback from the public and would strive to address the concerns that were raised.

“We believe that the submission of our plan was the initiation of both the public process and public dialogue. We welcome this part of the process very sincerely. We’ve spent the last 10 months working with some of the best consultants, engineers, designers in the world, and we are delighted for the plan that is being presented,” Ward said at the start of the presentation.

“We love Hospital Hill. We’re going to make sincere efforts to address specific concerns expressed tonight by our neighbors and especially by our direct abutters.”

Michael LeBlanc, a principal with the design firm Utile, said the plan for the site revolves around three principles: acknowledging the site’s history and keeping the administration building front and center; creating a network of open spaces, including a green space and terrace area in front of the administration building and another green space at the center of the site; and prioritizing pedestrians over vehicles, which includes tree-lined streets.

Residents and city councillors who attended the meeting voiced their concerns about the project.

Ward 5 Councillor Kirsten Hughes, whose district includes the former hospital, said the four six-story buildings included as part of the proposal do not jell with the surrounding neighborhood.

“There are some really disappointing aspects, particularly the…larger scale buildings, which don’t fit in with the character of that neighborhood, at all,” Hughes said.

“I know [FoxRock] wants to develop the site to its fullest, but we also want to ensure that that site brings our neighborhood to its fullest potential, and this presentation doesn’t get us there.”

Ward 3 Councillor Ian Cain, whose district includes the opposite side of Whitwell Street, said the plan was too dense and too close to abutting homes.

“Though I look forward to the improvements on the current Quincy Hospital site, the current scale of the proposed project is far too dense for the encapsulating neighborhood and I would hope for the developers to revisit the setbacks as planned so as not to dramatically infringe on the direct abutters,” Cain said in a letter to the board.

“I have no doubt the FoxRock team will do the right thing, properly listen to the area residents…and come to a resolution that makes sense for all parties.”

The city’s three at-large councillors – Noel DiBona, Nina Liang and Mahoney – all raised concerns about the project as well.

DiBona said the project would negatively impact the city’s school system and police and fire services by adding upwards of 2,000 new residents. The city needs senior housing, he added, and the developer should build senior housing on site or cut the number of units in half.

“Why go to Florida when you can sell your house in the city of Quincy and go up the Hospital Hill over 55 community?” DiBona said. “That’s what I’m proposing as an alternate route – or cut the units in half, 598 units to 299.”

Liang said the project requires real collaboration between the developer and neighborhood.

“We can all agree this is a blighted property and we want something to be done here, but not done with collaboration – real collaboration – with the neighbors,” she said.

Mahoney likewise said dialogue between the neighborhood and developer was key to the project.

“I want so badly for [FoxRock] to come to this table and work with the neighborhood, because good development can happen here, but it can’t happen if it’s a one-side conversation,” she said.

Representatives from Hospital Hill Neighborhoods Association had a chance to make their own presentation during the public hearing.

Will Smith of the HHNA said the group, which represents about 100 families in the area, would like to see the overall density of the project decrease and the setbacks between the new buildings and abutting properties increased. FoxRock, Smith added, has worked with neighbors on plans for Glendale Park but not the development itself.

“We agree that this underutilized site and obsolete hospital must be redeveloped and we welcome the new residents it will bring to our neighborhood; however, the legitimate concerns of our neighbors cannot be ignored,” he said.

Jocelyn Sedney, another member of the HHNA, provided the Symmes Hospital site in Arlington as a similar example of a hospital being redeveloped. The project there includes 176 apartments and condominiums and 90 units of assisted living on a 16-acre site, she said.

“I’m not saying this is what FoxRock should do, I’m just suggesting that there are other options out there that could be beneficial to the neighborhood and beneficial to the developer as well,” Sedney said.

More than a dozen other residents voiced their objections to the project at the hearing or in letters to the board. None spoke in favor of the plans as presented.

Carolyn Long, a resident of Colonial Drive, which is located behind the hospital campus, said FoxRock’s proposal would create a city within a city that would be detrimental to the existing neighborhood.

“I believe that 114 Whitwell St. should be the jewel and the crown of the neighborhood. Instead, as it currently stands, it is a city within a city providing no real enhancement to the area other than generic places to rent. It will impact the peace, privacy and enjoyment of existing residents and abutters, and quite possibly lower property values,” Long said.

“I ask FoxRock to regard these comments not as obstructionist or as an opponent, but as a resident who loves where they live and wishes to work together to make this project the best it possibly could be.”

Ernest Gervino, who also lives on Colonial Drive, said the new buildings would loom large over the neighborhood.

“This proposal would clearly change the character of this hill by building fortress-type buildings. They would be 25 feet from my house,” he said. “It is almost as if it is a castle and we are the peasants on the outside.”

FoxRock acquired the hospital for $12 million from Steward Health Care, QMC’s former owner, in December 2016. As part of the deal to purchase the hospital, FoxRock, which is owned by Granite Telecommunications CEO and president Rob Hale, was also named the developer for the Ross Lot area in Quincy Center by Mayor Thomas Koch. Koch has said the company could build up to 1 million square feet of commercial space on that site.

The site at 114 Whitwell St. is in a planned-urban-development zoning district, which would have given the City Council, not the Planning Board, the ability to review the project. Councillors, however, amended the city’s zoning ordinance late last year to make redevelopment of a hospital site an allowed use in a PUD district subject to site-plan review by the Planning Board.

The council at that time also lowered the height of new buildings allowed on site from eight stories down to six and reduced the floor area ratio – which determines how dense new construction can be – from 4.0 to 2.5. The zoning change also required 20 percent of the site be kept as open space.

The 598-unit development would be served by entryways on both sides of the administration building that currently sits at the front of the property. The project also includes 5,000 square feet of retail. Renderings courtesy FoxRock Properties. 

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Quincy Center Fire Displaces Four Residents

By SCOTT JACKSON

A man trying to install new window glazing caused a two-alarm fire at a Quincy Center home Monday that displaced four residents.

Joseph Jackson, Quincy’s acting fire chief, said a resident at 47 Spear St. was using a plumber’s torch while trying to put new glazing in the window around 11:45 a.m. on Monday when the fire broke out.

“They were trying to soften up the glazing and foolishly decided to use a plumber’s torch to do it,” he said.

Firefighters spent about an hour on scene. Jackson said the fire “could have been nightmare,” but credited the first companies on scene for their work to limit the blaze.

“The guys did a really good job of putting it out,” he said.
Jackson said four residents were displaced by the fire and received assistance from the Red Cross. Quincy police said all residents who were inside at the time of the fire were able to make it out safely.

Jackson said there was no estimate yet for how much damage the fire caused.
Additionally, Jackson on Tuesday said the USS Salem, which is berthed in the Fore River Shipyard, remains closed following a fire earlier this month. The ship, which was home to a haunted attraction this month in the run up to Halloween, could re-open if code violations found after the fire are fixed

The Oct. 10 fire burned several wooden boards and plywood used in one of the decorations. No injuries were reported.

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Quincy Man Facing Sex Trafficking, Armed Assault Charges

By SCOTT JACKSON

A 29-year-old Quincy man was ordered held without bail pending a dangerousness hearing next week following at his arraignment Thursday on a number of charges, including sex trafficking and armed assault.

Robert Bozeman, a resident of 25 Buckley St. #3, pleaded not guilty at his arraignment in Quincy District Court on charges of human trafficking, assault with a deadly weapon, armed assault to murder, threats to commit a crime, possession of a firearm without an FID, discharging a firearm within 500 feet of a building, possession of ammunition without an FID, possession with intent to distribute a class B substance (cocaine), and possession of an electric stun gun without an FID.

Judge John Stapleton ordered Bozeman held without bail pending a dangerousness hearing Oct. 23.

Prosecutors said a woman, who identified herself as Bozeman’s girlfriend, told investigators Bozeman had trafficked her for sex in Boston more than 40 times. She also told investigators Bozeman had punched her in the face and fired a gun inside their apartment, according to prosecutors.

Bozeman was arrested early Thursday morning following a weeklong investigation. A SWAT and crisis negotiation team assisted in the arrest. Prosecutors said he had crack cocaine and a stun gun, which he did not have a license for, in his possession at the time of the arrest.

Bozeman’s attorney, John Stevens, said investigators were unable to find the weapon, and added that some of the witnesses had incentives to implicate his client.

Quincy police began investigating Bozeman Oct. 10 after a woman entered the police station to report a larceny.

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Quincy Approves Funding For L.I. Bridge Dispute

By SCOTT JACKSON

City councillors approved Mayor Thomas Koch’s request for $250,000 in funding for the ongoing litigation over Boston’s proposal to rebuild the Long Island Bridge.

The council approved the request in an 8-0 vote on Monday, with Ward 5 Councillor Kirsten Hughes absent.

City Solicitor Jim Timmins, in a memo provided to the council, said the $250,000 would cover the anticipated costs of hiring engineers and legal counsel to make Quincy’s case against the bridge during the current fiscal year, which continues through the end of June 2019. About $150,000 of the money is expected to go towards engineering experts, with the remaining $100,000 for legal expenses.

“Boston’s attempt to reconstruct the Long Island Bridge involves multiple-agency permits: local, state and federal. Each of those permits involves processes that the city of Quincy will participate in, and that participation requires significant engineering expertise and the guidance of legal counsel experienced in this particular area of the law,” Timmins said in his memo.

Chris Walker, Koch’s chief of staff, previously said the city has spent $150,000 to date related to the bridge dispute. The funds spent so far have come from various line items in the budget, such as those for outside counsel in Timmins’ budget and a contractual item in the city engineer’s budget.

Quincy has retained the services of engineering firm Tighe & Bond and law firm Mackie Shea as consultants in the dispute over the bridge.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh in January announced plans to rebuild the Long Island Bridge, the superstructure of which was demolished in 2015, and place a recovery campus on Long Island. Boston had hoped to start construction on the bridge next year and complete it within three years at a cost of $92 million.

Koch and other Quincy officials were quick to oppose the plan, citing the traffic impacts in Squantum.

The bridge project has already received approval from the Boston Conservation Commission, while the Quincy Conservation Commission rejected a permit for the new span. Both decisions are being appealed to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection; those appeals have been consolidated, meaning they will be heard together, Timmins said.

Matthew Beaton, the state’s secretary of energy and environmental affairs, has determined the project does not require an environmental impact report pursuant to the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act. Beaton, in his Sept. 21 ruling, said the project is similar enough in scope to the 2015 demolition of the bridge that it does not require a further MEPA review.

Quincy officials are looking to appeal Beaton’s decision, Koch said previously.

Ward 6 Councillor William Harris expressed displeasure with Beaton’s ruling at Monday’s council meeting. He questioned how the project could pass the MEPA process without Boston providing any details on what it plans to do on Long Island, which includes some 225 acres of land.

“I have to express my disappointment with the governor’s people for not going through a full environmental review and the decision made by MEPA,” Harris said. “That is one reason why the city has to pursue all legal options.

“There is a section of the MEPA law that you cannot segment a project. That is what Boston appears to be doing by attempting to rebuild the Long Island Bridge and not talking about all the other impacts that will occur when they develop the island.”

Harris said he planned to request Quincy’s delegation on Capitol Hill launch a full congressional investigation into the state’s decision. Harris wants a “thorough investigation of the possibility of any inappropriate action, or lack of proper actions, by state officials involved in the making of the decision.”

The project also requires a Chapter 91 license from MassDEP and a federal consistency review from the state Office of Coastal Zone Management. The U.S. Coast Guard and Army Corps of Engineers also have a role in the permitting process. In addition, Boston must go before the Quincy Planning Board and obtain a building permit from the Inspectional Services Department.

 

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Community Meeting Oct. 16 On Beachcomber Site

By SCOTT JACKSON

The new owners of the former Beachcomber on Wollaston Beach plan to tear down the shuttered bar and replace it with a new building featuring a restaurant, retail space and residences.

Ward 5 Councillor Kirsten Hughes will host a community meeting on the plan will be held Tuesday, Oct. 16, at 7 p.m. in the auditorium of the Beechwood Knoll School, 225 Fenno St.

Edward Fleming, the attorney for the owners of the property, 797 Quincy Shore Dr. LLC, on Wednesday said his clients hope to go before the Board of License Commissioners in November for a transfer of the liquor license held by the former owner of the Beachcomber. Plans will be filed with the Planning Board around that same time.

The owners of the new property acquired the site for $1.45 million in May. The new owners of the property are Jacky An Xie of Saugus, Lin Y. Xu of Amesbury and Zhong Wen Huang of West Squantum St., according to certificate of organization filed with the state in March.

In a letter to Hughes, Fleming said the property owners have determined the present building on site will not serve their needs.

“Since acquiring the site, my clients have conducted a thorough examination of the property and existing building and have determined that the existing structure is in need of substantial renovation and will not properly serve their needs for the new restaurant,” Fleming said.

“As a result, my client intends to remove the existing Beachcomber building and construct a new building in the middle of the site with a newly designed parking area and substantial drainage control measures.”

Plans call for a three-story building constructed in a traditional beach style. The first level would include the main restaurant’s main entrance – including a reception area and small sushi bar – and two 1,800 square foot retail areas. The second floor would include the main restaurant space, function room and kitchen. Six residential units – Fleming said Wednesday it has not been determined if they would be apartments or condos – would be located on the third floor.

The parking lot, accessible only from Quincy Shore Drive, would have spaces for 88 vehicles.

The Beachcomber opened its doors in 1959. The once-booming nightclub closed for good in 2015.

 

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