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$1.6b Quincy downtown makeover faces longer delay

A revised contract governing Quincy’s $1.6 billion downtown redevelopment probably won’t be in place until late summer, developers and city officials said, delaying the resumption of construction months longer than anticipated.

Amid rising costs, the Merchants Row portion of the project was suspended in November and is being redesigned.

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All sides have said that construction would not resume until the contract — which covers the process, timeline, and cost structure for the project — has been revised to adapt to changing market conditions.

Officials’ comments in the past few days have given the clearest indication yet of how long the delay is likely to last.

“The public-private team working on potential modifications has to continue its work — which is financial, legal, physical analysis — and reach a place where there is a set of modifications that reflect current market conditions,” said Ken Narva, cofounder of the city’s partner Street-Works Development LLC. “[That] probably requires everyone involved to compromise. Our goal is to hopefully have that by mid-spring.”

That schedule differs significantly from initial statements by city officials that construction would resume in the spring.

A revised contract would then have to go through the City Council approval process, which Councilor Brian Palmucci expects to take months.

“Something this important shouldn’t be rushed through,” Palmucci said. “There is more to go over now than there was originally.”

Palmucci said he would not vote on a revised contract until he gets answers to several pressing questions, including the developer’s compliance with the existing contract, the cost of consultants, and the specific reasons for delaying Merchants Row.

New York-based Twining Properties, which has taken over the Merchants Row portion, did not return calls seeking comment.

But Narva said some of the cost issues that have delayed construction would be resolved in a new contract.

Deliberations over the contract will also mean the next phase of the project will not begin until next year, Narva said.

Street-Works Development is handling the other parts of the downtown project.

Even after the council approves the revised contract, Narva said, Street-Works will have to file permitting documents in the following four to five months for the next phase, which would cover several blocks around the Ross Parking Garage.

Project design would follow, with shovels in the ground in the first or second quarter of 2015, Narva said.

City officials are anxiously awaiting progress.

“There should be round-the-clock discussions hammering out some of the elements that led us to where we are at this moment, which is a block partially demolished, no action being taken, and a substantial delay in place. Frankly, the entire downtown project has ground to a halt,” said Councilor Doug Gutro.

In the mayor’s office, officials said they have been working since November to get the project back on track.

“There are a lot of moving parts, and all of the stakeholders are working diligently to ensure that we move forward,” said Christopher Walker, spokesman for Mayor Thomas P. Koch. “Getting it done right is far more important than tying it [to] any immediate date.”

The redesign of Merchants Row, a mixed-used development contained within Hancock Street, Chestnut Street, and Cottage Avenue, has been ongoing with Twining Properties, city officials said.

The revisions in the overall contact, Narva said, will mainly revolve around bonding and labor costs.

“We’re trying to find the simplest ways to make whatever modifications are appropriate and doable that allow everybody to get something out of this and have it happen,” Narva said.

Despite the work to be done, city officials remain confident the project is moving forward.

“There are meetings virtually every day,” Walker said. “It’s something where there are a lot of moving parts, a lot of parties involved.

“The mayor has to be very methodical in bringing everyone together and developing the path forward in a way that works.”

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