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Business

Menino asks Partners to nix Somerville move

Partners HealthCare would move 4,500 employees to the new Assembly Row development in Somerville if the move goes through.

David L. Ryan/Globe Staff/File 2012

Partners HealthCare would relocate 4,500 employees to the new Assembly Row development in Somerville if the move goes through.

Mayor Thomas M. Menino drafted a letter Friday asking the board of directors at Boston-based Partners HealthCare System, the state’s largest hospital and doctors network, to reverse a decision to consolidate administrative offices by moving 4,500 employees to Somerville.

Menino, who is leaving office next month, also instructed his chief of staff, Mitchell Weiss, to raise the issue Friday in a daily briefing call with representatives of Mayor-elect Martin J. Walsh’s transition team, according to Dot Joyce, a spokeswoman for Menino. Joyce said Menino already has talked to at least one Partners board member whom she would not name.

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The outgoing mayor said Thursday that he had been trying for the past four months to persuade Partners executives to construct an administrative building on a parcel across from the Boston Police Department headquarters in Roxbury. A presence there — near Roxbury Community College and Madison Park High School and not far from the Longwood Medical Area — could be a source of jobs, training, and neighborhood revitalization, he said.

Joyce said Menino’s letter will “reiterate his disappointment at this unfortunate chain of events. The mayor has always considered Partners HealthCare to be a partner in helping to grow this city. And the city was clearly not considered a partner in their decision.”

Walsh declined to discuss the Partners move Friday. But his spokeswoman, Kate Norton, released a statement in which Walsh said he was disappointed.

“I know Mayor Menino has worked tirelessly and successfully to help companies prosper and grow jobs here in Boston and I share his concern about this development,” Walsh said. The statement stopped short of promising to join Menino in pressing the Partners board.

A phone call to Partners board chairman Edward P. Lawrence wasn’t returned Friday.

‘The city was clearly not considered a partner in’ Partners’ decision.

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Partners vice president Rich Copp, who said he was speaking on behalf of the health care chain and Lawrence, insisted the decision to take up to 700,000 square feet of office space in the Assembly Row development in Somerville has been made. Partners, however, plans to keep its corporate headquarters in Boston to be close to Massachusetts General and Brigham and Women’s hospitals, the Harvard-affiliated academic medical centers it runs.

Copp declined to address the mayor’s discussions with Partners executives and board members. “Any conversation with the mayor about this project is private,” he said.

In a Thursday e-mail message to employees, Partners chief financial officer Peter Markell said the consolidation of 14 offices at the Somerville site would boost efficiency, cut costs, and provide Partners’ nonhospital employees easy access to Assembly Row by highway and MBTA. He also noted that the mixed-use development will feature shops, restaurants, and apartments, as well as bicycle and walking paths and a park along the Mystic River.

Partners officials weighing potential sites in Somerville and Roxbury concluded the costs associated with the project would be about $50 million higher in Roxbury, according to health care officials familiar with their strategy. Executives from Partners and Federal Realty Investment Trust, which is developing the $1.2 billion Assembly Row project on 45 acres of former industrial property, continue to negotiate over the design of the new complex, which is expected to be two connected buildings. The discussions are also addressing whether Partners will own the complex or lease the space.

Daniel DeMaina, a spokesman for Somerville’s mayor, Joseph A. Curtatone, said the city did not offer tax breaks or other incentives to Partners. But he said Somerville officials are talking with executives of Partners, which as a nonprofit organization is tax exempt, about making voluntary payments to defray the cost of services such as police and fire protection, trash pickup, and snow removal.

“Partners has assured us that they would agree to make municipal service contributions to the city, which are still being negotiated,” DeMaina said.

Robert Weisman can be reached at robert.weisman@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeRobW.
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