A healthy start – Ground broken on new EBHNC development

It’s a monumental project that will forever transform Maverick Square by investing federal stimulus funds to create a brand new health care facility in the area.

On Monday, East Boston Neighborhood Health Center (EBNHC) officials, joined by local elected officials and leaders of the health care industry, broke ground on what is sure to become an anchor development in the square.

The new, 49,000 square-foot ambulatory care building, which is being funded in part with $12 million of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) money, will allow EBNHC to create new, critically-needed capacity to serve patients in need of primary care, vision services, and dental care.

It is the first ARRA-funded project to break ground in the United States.

“Community health centers are on the front lines of our Commonwealth’s health care system, and today we celebrate the groundbreaking of a state-of-the-art facility that will provide quality care for the people of East Boston,” said Governor Deval Patrick. “With stimulus funds from the federal government, this new facility will bring jobs to this vital community and ensure that residents get the quality services they deserve.”

It was announced in December that President Barack Obama had chosen the EBNHC as the recipient of $12 million in stimulus money to build a brand new facility in Maverick Square.

EBNHC President Jack Cradock and EBNHC’s Vice President Manny Lopes were then invited down to Washington D.C. to attend a White House ceremony as the stimulus money funds for the health center were announced.

“This was the last round of federal stimulus money,” said Cradock. “And out of 600 application only 85 projects were chosen and out of those 85 projects the Health Center received the most money.”

To get the money into East Boston, there was some heavily lobbying from the Health Center to Senator Anthony Petruccelli who worked with Governor Deval Patrick, a friend of President Obama, and Congressman Michael Capuano. While the EBNHC’s proposal was chosen on merit and was considered one of the best among the field of proposals, the little political push didn’t hurt.

“The East Boston Neighborhood Health Center is an important presence in the community,” said Capuano, cofounder and co-chair of the Community Health Centers Caucus in the U.S. House. “These generous federal stimulus funds will help the center expand to meet growing needs. In addition to construction jobs, the enhanced facility will employ more medical personnel, and a larger staff will provide its patients with more and better medical and preventive services.”

The new Maverick Square facility, which will be completed in just over a year, will expand primary care, vision, and dental services that have been operating in tight quarters in the main health center building.

Demand for these clinical services has been growing at a pace that cannot be sustained in the current location. The new building will also provide a home for the EBNHC Education and Training Institute as well as administration offices, which currently are in leased space.

Consistent with the intent of ARRA, the $12 million in stimulus funds for this $20 million project will help to create over 150 construction jobs and over 50 permanent health care jobs. An additional benefit of the project will be the anchor it provides to economic development and revitalization efforts in Maverick Square.

“I am very excited about the developing stages of the EBNHC facility,” says Mayor Thomas Menino. “By expanding the health center’s size, the new building will meet the demand for medical services in the area and also create new construction and health care jobs.”

The new facility, which will be built on a lot that is largely vacant, will complement a renovated MBTA Blue Line station in the square and other recent improvements. The building will be LEED certified and fully energy efficient. The architect for the project is isgenuity, LLC of Needham, Mass. and the project manager is Suffolk Construction, of Boston.

“June 14 marks a new day for our community health center, but it also represents the culmination of many years of planning, persistence, and hard work by our organization to win the financial support for this facility,” said Cradock. “We are very grateful for the support we have received for this important project, both in terms of the federal funding for which the Governor advocated so passionately, and for the efforts of the Boston Redevelopment Authority to work so closely with us to get this building right.”

EBNHC has been a vital part of its community for over 40 years, providing easily accessible, high-quality health care to all who live and work in East Boston and the surrounding communities of Chelsea, Revere, Everett, and Winthrop. EBNHC handles 300,000 patient visits per year – more than any other ambulatory care center in New England.

“This is one of the most exciting projects I’ve been a part of since becoming an elected officials a decade ago,” said Petruccelli. “This is a rare opportunity that not many communities can say they are a part of but here in East Boston we are going to use federal stimulus funds to rejuvenate and entire square and community. This is a big deal.”

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