fb-pixel

Amid Boston’s construction suspension, city inspectors halt work at dozens of job sites

Boston was the first big city in the country to make such a move, which brought billions of dollars of construction work — sites that are emblems of the city’s longtime building boom — to an abrupt halt.
Boston was the first big city in the country to make such a move, which brought billions of dollars of construction work — sites that are emblems of the city’s longtime building boom — to an abrupt halt.Maddie Meyer/Getty

City authorities have shut down scores of construction job sites, from East Boston to Jamaica Plain, amid Boston’s suspension of such work brought on by the unprecedented coronavirus crisis.

Inspectors have halted work for more than 90 projects since the construction pause went into effect in mid-March, according to a list provided to the Globe from the city’s inspectional services department. The vast majority of the sites on the list were relatively small residential projects.

On Howard Avenue in Dorchester, for instance, a $320,000 project that called for the building of a two-family home was stopped after work had continued following Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s order last month that paused most construction in the city. On Primrose Street in Roslindale, a $16,000 job replacing exterior siding was brought to a halt by authorities.

Advertisement



The $5.5 million gutting of office space on Arlington Street, across from Boston’s Public Garden, had also continued and was interrupted by inspectors. The $65,000 remodeling of a kitchen and three-and-a-half bathrooms in the Back Bay also stopped. That project included new cabinets, new vanities, and new tile, but no structural work.

There were other jobs that ceased: $2.5 million worth of masonry work and other repairs in the city’s Leather District, and a $1.8 million conversion project in a residential building in Roxbury.

There were at least a dozen instances where work was stopped but exemptions were then granted that allowed work to continue. On Moore Street in East Boston, for instance, a job was shut down but then received an exemption in late March for emergency roof replacement. In many cases, only certain parts of a job were allowed to continue. The city thus far has granted at least 113 exemptions to the construction suspension.

Additionally, there were instances in recent weeks where a project had no permit, meaning it would have flouted city rules even without the construction pause. Workers at 386 K St. in South Boston, for instance, had to be told to stop twice. That job had no permit, according to city authorities.

Advertisement



At a Thursday press conference, Walsh implored construction firms to allow their workers to stay home and not to force them to work.

“We will shut jobs down in the city of Boston until we think it’s safe to go back to work,” he said.

Walsh announced the decision to halt the vast majority of construction in the city on March 16, with the COVID-19 caseload climbing. As of Thursday, there had been more than 2,800 confirmed cases in Boston and 34 deaths of city residents linked to novel coronavirus.

Exceptions to the construction pause for emergency work like urgently needed street repairs and utility hook-up work are allowed, and the city has reviewed exemptions to the rule on a case-by-case basis. Walsh said worksites should have been locked down for safety by March 23.

When Walsh announced the construction pause, he said the city would review the shutdown in 14 days to determine whether it can be lifted. He later ordered it to be extended “until further notice.”

Boston was the first big city in the country to make such a move, which brought billions of dollars of construction work — sites that are emblems of the city’s longtime building boom — to an abrupt halt.

Walsh called the decision to suspend construction a personal one; he had worked on construction sites and was formerly the head of a local building and construction trades council.

Advertisement



In a rare rift, the building shutdown would eventually put Walsh at odds with Governor Charlie Baker. In March, the Baker administration sent a letter to cities and towns emphasizing its stance deeming construction an “essential service” that should continue, despite the governor’s stay-at-home advisory.

Boston’s construction pause has been applauded by some local industry stakeholders. John Fish, chief executive of construction giant Suffolk, said last month it was the right thing to do.

“We need to go slow to go fast,” said Fish of the suspension.

Brian Doherty, the general agent of the Building & Construction Trades Council of the Metropolitan District, an umbrella group of 20 local construction unions, said last month the organization supported Walsh’s decision “to take every step necessary to keep our communities safe.”

“This is a worldwide pandemic and our public health community has made clear that social distancing is the only way to combat this virus," he said in a statement last month. "We support Mayor Walsh’s decision to take action and to put the health of the public first.”

Tim Logan of Globe staff contributed to this report.


Danny McDonald can be reached at daniel.mcdonald@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @Danny__McDonald.