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After years of plans, Quincy Center remodeling begins

Heavy equipment will start tearing up parts of Quincy Center next month, launching a $1.6 billion revitalization of the city’s downtown that has been in the works for years.

The first phase of the project, to be called Merchants Row, will include a complex of new and restored buildings that will contain 306 loft-style apartments, 24,000 square feet of office space, and several shops and restaurants along Hancock and Cottage streets.

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The upcoming construction also includes a new public green that will incorporate the burial grounds of presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams and provide a new pedestrian link to the Quincy Center Station on the MBTA’s Red Line.

“This is not a small first step,” Ken Narva, managing partner of Street-Works Development of White Plains, N.Y., said of the first phase of construction. “It symbolizes all the components that will eventually make up Quincy Center: housing, retail, new public spaces, and the restoration of existing buildings.”

Over the next decade, the redevelopment will transform a 20 blocks with 1.1 million square feet of new office and academic space, 700,000 square feet of stores and restaurants, two hotels, 1,400 residences, and more than 5,000 parking spaces.

The first phase is moving forward following a $55 million equity commitment by LaSalle Investment Management, which is teaming up with the codevelopers Street-Works and Boston-based Beal Cos. to finance the Merchants Row buildings.

Construction is expected to start in February on a 15-story apartment and retail complex and an adjacent building that will also include apartments.

The first residences, scheduled to be completed by summer 2014, will be loft-style apartments with high ceilings and open layouts designed for younger renters.

The project, which is among the largest developments in the state, promises to create thousands of construction and permanent jobs in the years ahead.

It is being paid for through a novel financing structure in which the city is borrowing about $289 million for road improvements and other infrastructure to support the project.

It will then pay off that debt with future tax and parking garage revenues from the private development.

The state is also kicking in more than $60 million in funding.

“This historic redevelopment plan, and the thousands of jobs it will bring, is built on a foundation of public and private partnerships,” Mayor Thomas P. Koch said.

He added that the project is attracting interest from national and international investors.

Koch and the developers hope the redeveloped downtown will attract new residents as well as large medical, technology, and academic tenants attracted to its proximity to downtown Boston.

Following completion of the $200 million first phase, Beal and Street-Works intend to move forward with additional anchor-type retail stores, offices, and residences that will be designed to create an area bustling with people and shopping and entertainment options.

The work will also include significant road and circulation upgrades that will make the downtown more convenient for new residents and out-of-town shoppers.

Casey Ross can be reached at cross@globe.com.
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