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Prouty Garden bequests don’t block hospital plans, AG says

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An old tree is a favorite at the Prouty Garden in Boston Children’s Hospital.
An old tree is a favorite at the Prouty Garden in Boston Children’s Hospital.(Wendy Maeda)

Attorney General Maura Healey declined a request by opponents to block Boston Children's Hospital from building an 11-story addition where the beloved Prouty Garden currently sits.

In a six-page letter issued Friday, the office of the state attorney general said that bequests used to construct and maintain Prouty Garden do not obligate hospital administrators to keep the garden for perpetuity. The letter, signed by Assistant Attorney General Nora J. Mann, was addressed to Boston attorney Gregor McGregor, who is representing Friends of the Prouty Garden, a group whose online petition to preserve the garden has nearly 14,000 signatures.

In a statement, McGregor played down Healey's decision, saying it's "not a significant development."

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"The staff letter itself makes clear the limited scope of the AG's review in the Boston Children's Hospital matter and confirms the AG does not have legal jurisdiction to review alternative sites for hospital projects," McGregor said.

Instead the group is going to focus its efforts on urging state public health officials to reject the hospital's plans. the letter comes on the heels of a four-hour hearing Thursday before three state public health representatives, who will report to the Massachusetts Public Health Council, the final authority on the project. The hearing was attended by more than 200 people on both sides of the issue.

The $1 billion tower, which would include a pediatric heart center, neonatal intensive care unit, and private rooms, has attracted opposition from some patients' families and doctors who say that the half-acre garden has served as an oasis for families struggling with serious illness.

Boston Children's Hospital is seeking approval for a 575,000-square-foot facility at its Longwood campus. Hospital officials are also planning to renovate existing buildings, construct a 202,000-square-foot outpatient center in Brookline, and add inpatient hospital beds to a facility in Waltham. In all, the expansion will cost $1.5 billion.

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Public health officials will continue to accept written comments on the project until March 7


Katheleen Conti can be reached at kconti@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @GlobeKConti.