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Walsh outlines how construction might safely resume amid coronavirus

BOSTON, MA - 3/20/2020: ALL LOCKED UP at Winthrop Center former Winthrop Street garage construction site in Boston. Construction shutting down in Boston area becuause of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. (David L Ryan/Globe Staff ) SECTION: BUSINESS TOPIC:24construction David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

Boston was the first big city in the country to shut down construction amid the coronavirus crisis. Now Mayor Martin J. Walsh is outlining how work might start up again, safely.

The city on Friday issued a series of new safety guidelines for construction projects, including requiring a coronavirus safety plan as part of any building permit, with details for everything from hand-washing stations to elevator usage. Safety plans will be due starting April 27.

For now, the guidelines only apply to “essential” projects that have been allowed to continue despite the shutdown — chiefly health care and crucial infrastructure work — but Walsh suggested they could be a roadmap for how work might continue more broadly.


“They will expand to include all sites when we deem it safe to restart construction in the City of Boston,” he said. “To be clear, our pause on non-essential construction remains in place at this time.”

That pause has put the brakes on billions of dollars worth of ongoing projects, with half-built towers dotting downtown skylines, partially complete apartment buildings standing in neighborhoods across the city, and thousands of construction workers sitting at home. Cambridge and Somerville have also stopped most projects, to slow the spread of COVID-19, though work continues in many suburban towns as Gov. Charlie Baker has resisted calls from construction unions to implement a statewide construction ban.

Walsh, himself a longtime head of the city’s building trades unions and a vocal advocate of new development, signaled earlier this week that he’s hopeful Boston can start building again soon. In a video chat with members of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce Wednesday, he said he envisioned a “slow ramp-up” of construction, perhaps with workers spread onto multiple shifts, for better distancing. He said the city would start meeting with contractors soon to discuss how that might work.


Tim Logan can be reached at Follow him @bytimlogan.