Skeleton Sighting: EBNHC Springs to Life in Maverick Sq.

By John Lynds

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Construction workers erect the steel frame of what will become East Boston Neighborhood Health Center’s (EBNHC) main administrative building by the end of the year.

If you have passed through Maverick Square in the past week you would have definitely noticed a major change to the square’s landscape.

The steel skeleton of the monumental project that will forever transform the square has been erected as construction of East Boston Neighborhood Health Center’s new health care facility enters the final phases.

“We are really excited,” said EBNHC President and CEO Jack Cradock. “We will be holding a topping off event in the next week as the last steel truss is hoisted into place. The truss will be painted white and autographed by the supporters of this great project.”

EBNHC Deputy CEo Manny Lopes said this past winter’s harsh storms has delayed construction a bit but the new facility should be done by the end of the year.

“It was a combination of weather and other issues but we are back on track and working fast to make up some time this summer,” said Lopes. “We were originally shooting for the end of fall but we anticipate the building to be completed by December.”

The building’s construction is being funded by federal stimulus funds which has a deadline for completion. However, Lopes noted that there is some flexibility on the deadlines because of the size and scope of the project.

“With these federal grants there is some understanding that a major project like the one EBNHC is doing in Maverick Square involves a certain level of complexity,” said Lopes. “But we are confident we’ll meet the end of the year deadline.”

Resident and passers by should notice the outer walls and roof being constructed over the next few weeks. Then, Lopes said, work will move into the interior of the building.

Back in June EBNHC officials joined local elected officials and leaders of the health care industry to break 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.

It was announced in December 2009 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.

Cradock and 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 heavy 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 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.

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 and the project manager is Suffolk Construction, of Boston.

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