The Baker administration has tapped Leggat McCall Properties to oversee a $1 billion-plus makeover of one of the most prominent Brutalist-style buildings to come out of the urban renewal effort that swept away much of the West End roughly six decades ago.
The Boston-based developer will retrofit and rebuild the six-story Charles F. Hurley Building, at the corner of Staniford and Cambridge streets, primarily for life science use, though the complex will include state government offices ― as mandated in the bidding process ― as well as ground-floor retail space and 200 housing units. The firm’s design shows a lab tower on Cambridge Street and a residential tower along Staniford Street. The total size of the redeveloped complex will likely surpass 1 million square feet, easily exceeding the Hurley’s nearly 350,000 square feet.
Also part of the bid is a remake of the central plaza behind the Hurley building and an area used for parking along Merrimac Street in front of the adjacent Lindemann mental health center. The Lindemann itself, built around the same time as the Hurley as part of what famed architect Paul Rudolph envisioned to be an even bigger Government Service Center complex, is not part of the project.
To some, the distinctively rippled concrete exterior of the Hurley is an eyesore and a blunt reminder of what was lost when the West End was razed. To others, it represents a classic example of Brutalist architecture from the period and should be preserved.
For politicians such as City Councilor Kenzie Bok, the redevelopment represents an opportunity to start stitching back together a neighborhood that was broken apart.
“From my perspective, it’s a megablock that kind of walls off the West End from the rest of the city,” Bok said. “There’s an opportunity to really fix that here.”
Because the Baker administration is still negotiating with Leggat McCall, it declined to share financial terms or the bidding documents after announcing the winner on Wednesday. State officials said the precise size of the project will be determined through the permitting process. They say the nearly 50-year-old building needs more than $200 million in renovations and upgrades, and that it is an energy sieve with an inefficient layout.
The redevelopment, just a few blocks up Cambridge Street from a massive expansion planned by Mass. General Hospital, was set in motion in 2019, when Governor Charlie Baker announced that the state would put the 3-plus acre Hurley property on the market. Seven bids for a long-term ground lease were initially submitted to the state Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance. The list was eventually shortened to three finalists: FD Stonewater and Catalyst RCP, Quaker Lane, and Leggat McCall. The proposals were evaluated using five equally weighted criteria: diversity and inclusion, team qualifications, business terms, development approach, and design approach.
Leggat McCall’s experience working with government and institutional property owners was a factor in the selection process. Among the firm’s most prominent public-private projects underway today are the redevelopments of the former Sullivan courthouse tower in Cambridge and the Bunker Hill public housing complex in Charlestown. Diversity played a key role as well: The Baker administration said the project will include what it bills as “the largest minority capital raise in Boston history,” a $59 million effort led by Alinea Partners. (Boston investment firm CrossHarbor Capital Partners is also providing funding.)
Bidders for the Hurley were asked to accommodate up to 350,000 square feet of government offices — more than enough room for the state offices currently there. As payment for the site, Leggat McCall will provide office space to the state at no cost, although the details of how that will work and how much space will be devoted to state government use are still under negotiation. As a result of public input early in the bidding process, state officials asked the bidders for outdoor improvements across the entire block, including a reopening of the fenced-off area used for parking on Merrimac Street, and required that they keep a substantial portion of the existing Hurley structure intact.
Permitting could take at least two years, so construction isn’t expected to begin until 2025.
Bill Gause, executive vice president at Leggat McCall, said his firm plans to redo the central tiered courtyard — in part by flattening it and building a garage underneath — and to provide more public access points to it. In particular, he hopes to retain the unusual exterior curved stairway that connects the courtyard to Merrimac Street.
“The idea is to really open up the ‘super block’ and create a more inclusive, friendly, welcoming space in the interior,” said Gause, who noted that the famed large-scale lobby murals by artist Costantino Nivola will also be retained. “This is going to be a delicate balance of preserving what’s there while allowing for future buildings to work in concert with that.”
The civic, retail, and cultural uses at the property have not yet been decided, although LabCentral has agreed to operate its “Ignite” program there to help diversify the ranks of life sciences workers.
Bok, the city councilor, said she hopes other ideas for community spaces that have been mentioned by neighbors, such as a place for youth sports or early childhood education, can be eventually included — especially because this parcel is public land that was taken in the context of clearing out an entire community.
“It’s good we’re at the beginning,” she said, “not the end of the public process.”