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New manager added to $1.6b Quincy project

Mayor also hints at a change in builders

Mayor Thomas P. Koch of Quincy said Tuesday that the $1.6 billion downtown redevelopment is unequivocally moving forward, but unveiled another change in the project's management and indicated a possible shift in contractors.

At a morning meeting with dozens of business leaders, Koch announced the addition of Jim Kirby from the Boston construction management firm C3 Inc. to help the city better understand project costs.

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“I want to be comfortable going forward making decisions, more comfortable with numbers. And Jim Kirby brings for us that expertise that I think we were lacking,” Koch told the audience.

The mayor’s comments follow several weeks of unfavorable publicity over the sweeping project, which officially broke ground in June.

Most notably, escalating construction costs prompted the developer to halt construction of the first step, Merchants Row. This mix of retailers, residences, and office space is expected to occupy the block surrounded by Chestnut Street, Cottage Avenue, and Hancock Street, but presently is a giant hole.

When work halted last month, New York-based Twining Properties took over that portion of the project, which could lead to a change in contractors.

The current contractor, Suffolk Construction Co., is “not involved” while construction is suspended, said Koch, who added that all of Suffolk’s bills have been paid. But when construction resumes in the spring, Suffolk could be replaced, the mayor said.

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“Street-Works and Suffolk are the ones with the relationship, and I think that that will continue in other parts of the project,” Koch said in an interview after Tuesday’s meeting. “[Merchants Row] remains to be seen. [Suffolk] may be the builder, but I don’t know.”

Representatives from Suffolk’s media relations office were not immediately available for comment.

Further changes could be in the works. Koch mentioned the possibility of altering the project’s overriding contract, known as the Land Disposition Agreement, perhaps reducing some payments owed by Street-Works LLC, the lead developer, or loosening payment timelines to make the project more economically feasible.

In turn, Koch hopes to see the developer and its investors move away from the expected 7 percent return on their investment.

“The reality is we want everyone at the table to come forward — what can you live with? What can you live without? Where can we get to the point to get this moving . . . where everyone has shared in whatever changes or burden there may be for the benefit of the structure long term?” Koch said in the interview.

Though changes are afoot, Koch reiterated that the project is moving forward, and said he hopes a clearer direction will materialize in two to three months.

Beyond the public investment of millions into a slew of infrastructure upgrades, Quincy officials also confirmed that Quincy Mutual Group, LaSalle Investment Management, Beal Cos., Street-Works, and Twining had put forward $30 million to $35 million in private investment.

“People aren’t walking away from this project, no matter what you hear,” Koch said.

Jessica Bartlett can be reached at jessica.may.bartlett@gmail.com. Follow her on Twitter @jessmayb3.

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