Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) proposes expansion of its West End campus across two blocks on Cambridge Street. According to the Project Notification Form (PNF) filed by the proponent with the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA), this expansion would allow MGH to improve their patient services and offer more private rooms. The project as designed requires all existing buildings on the two blocks to be razed. This includes three historically significant masonry buildings: the 1884 Winchell Elementary School (aka Ruth Sleeper Hall) at 24 Blossom Street, the 1910 West End Tenement House at 23-25 north Anderson Street, and the 1929 West End Settlement House at 16-18 Blossom Street. These buildings are three of only about a dozen to survive the Urban Renewal efforts that decimated the neighborhood starting in the late 1950s.
More information about the project can be found on the BPDA website, here.
The Alliance is concerned about the loss of the three historically significant buildings on the site of the proposed new development. While we do not oppose MGH's concept of expansion, we hope to work with the development team to avoid the complete loss of these buildings. The West End neighborhood still suffers the effects of Urban Renewal and we feel that is important for MGH, both as good neighbors and stewards of some of the last remaining buildings from pre-Urban Renewal, to make every effort to preserve West End history, memory, and sense of place.
Highlights from our activity log:
• August 5, 2019
The Alliance, along with seven other local stakeholders, sends a letter to the BPDA demanding a thorough analysis of alternatives to demolition and a robust, public dialogue. The letter is attached below.
• July 23, 2019
Alliance staff attends a design review meeting of the Boston Civic Design Commission. Several members of the West End and Beacon Hill neighborhoods are also in attendance. The proponent presents updates to the project and the Commissioners give feedback about the "bridge" over North Anderson Street which would be several occupied floors. They are concerned that the street under the bridge will feel like a tunnel to pedestrians and would visually block views and access to the green space and historic building behind it, which they consider public assets. It is noted that there is an ongoing conversation about transferring ownership of the street to MGH. If this were to happen, it is suggested that the new development could possibly be designed as one building instead of two and set further back on the site, allowing space for more public realm along Cambridge Street and potentially the relocation of the historic buildings on this site. The proponent agrees to evaluate this option. Members of the public speak in strong support of saving the historic buildings.
• May 9, 2019
Alliance staff attends a meeting hosted by the West End Civic Association. The project team shares their presentation outlining the project and answers questions from attendees. No new information is provided about alternatives to demolition of the historic buildings on the site, though it is noted that the proponent is working with the Alliance, the Boston Landmarks Commission, and others to address this concern.
• May 7, 2019
Alliance attends BCDC meeting. The project is presented and commissioners express concerns about massing, scale, and site lines into the campus. As is typical, the project is directed to the design review committee for further consideration. Alliance ED, Greg Galer, expresses appreciation for the commission's recognition of the historic buildings on the site that are proposed for demolition and encourages the proponent to explore options for moving the buildings forward on the site, to front Cambridge Street, and constructing the new buildings behind.
• April 19, 2019
The BPDA issues a Scoping Determination which includes comment letters received and an outline of specific materials which the proponent will need to prepare and make public.
• March 22, 2019
The Alliance submits a comment letter, below, urging the proponent to find an alternative to demolition of the three historically significant buildings on the project site.
• March 19, 2019
The Alliance meets with the project team at MGH to learn more about the proposal and share our concerns. Alliance staff emphasizes the significance of the existing buildings and urges the proponent to consider moving the historic buildings on the site to provide space for the new development; the proponent agrees to study that alternative.
• February 20, 2019
A PNF is filed with the BPDA outlining a proposal to expand Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) across two blocks on Cambridge Street between Blossom Street and North Grove Street. According to the PNF, two new structures will be built on the site after all existing buildings are razed, including three historically significant masonry buildings.