Construction for the first part of Quincy’s $1.6 billion downtown redevelopment is set to start in February, following the recent go-ahead from the city’s Planning Board.
The approval came in mid-December after three meetings by the board in November and December, and shows that the project lines up with the city’s design guidelines for the new downtown.
The start of the project is significant for many Quincy officials, who have identified the construction of Merchants Row, an area bordered by Hancock Street, Chestnut Street, and Cottage Avenue, as the pace setter for the overall downtown revitalization.
“Obviously, this is the first real construction that will be happening and obviously it’s a sign of much more to come,” said Chris Walker, a spokesman for Mayor Thomas Koch.
Not only will the construction kick off the redevelopment, but that one block is intended to showcase what downtown will become: an amalgamation of street-level retail, two levels of underground parking, and hundreds of apartments within the 15-story Kilroy building and five-story Granite Trust Lofts.
“It really is a tangible sense that we’re moving to reality here — from plans and design and discussion, to bricks and mortar and cranes,” Walker said
Though the project has made its way through the first gantlet of approvals, it still needs to secure building permits before construction can begin. Already, some aspects have been changed.
According to Dennis Harrington, the city’s planning director, the height of the Kilroy building was reduced by 17 feet by shrinking the height of each floor. Furthermore, the top 10 floors of the Kilroy will be set back four feet to make the building less imposing from the sidewalk.
To help the project begin on time, the project also received three waivers from the Planning Board at the December meeting.
According to Harrington, engineers will not have to do a percolation test of the soil, mostly because of the type of foundation that will be built for the underground parking garage.
A wind tunnel test was also waived, as it would be a costly endeavor that would take up to six months to perform.
The third aspect waived was an overall parking plan for downtown, which was mentioned in the project’s guiding document. “I asked them to waive it,” Harrington said. “It’s premature. This is only one part. It would make no sense to do an overall parking plan. You’d have to do it all over again.”
The project was approved by the Planning Board with 10 conditions, among them that any issues identified by the project’s peer reviewer, an outside engineer who looks through the proposal, be resolved before a building permit is issued.
Utility work also has to be done as part of the project, timelines have to be filed, and demolition documents secured.
Beal/Street-Works, the developer of the downtown revitalization, will also have to issue final designs for infrastructure and public improvements to the Planning Board within the next three months.
After the infrastructure updates have been completed, the city will buy them from the developer once the buildings are generating tax revenue.
Although the Merchants Row portion of the project was separated from the entire downtown project, the remainder of construction is set to begin in the third quarter of 2013.Jessica Bartlett can be reached at jessica.may.bartlett@gmail.- com.