Friday, January 4, 2013

Boston’s Conductor Behind the Ferdinand Building’s Renaissance


The new Dudley Municipal Complex is well underway, including restoration of the historic Ferdinand’s Furniture Store, built in 1895 and once the largest retail furniture store in New England.

While the project is a major development and public policy accomplishment of the Menino Administration, implementation of the project has required complex coordination of the many people involved in planning and construction.  Joseph I. Mulligan, Deputy Director of the City of Boston’s Property & Construction Management Department, talks with HBI's writer Linnea Walsh on the project, its players, and his role in “conducting” everyone involved in the process. 

Tell us about the City’s Capital Construction Division.

The Capital Construction Division of the City’s Property & Construction Management Department is responsible for the planning, design, construction and major repair of the City’s municipal facilities such as police & fire stations, libraries, community centers, new schools, administrative buildings and other structures that serve the community and the City’s operations. For the Dudley Municipal Project, we effectively act as the “conductors of the symphony” in coordinating the efforts of Architects, Engineers, Construction Contractors and other City Departments, in working towards completion of the transformation of Dudley Square’s built environment.

This new complex will make up the center of the Boston Public School Department. How has that steered the design of the new building? 

The relocation of the Boston Public School Department’s (BPS) headquarters from downtown to Dudley Square situates their operations closer to the geographic center of the City, and to the students and families they serve.

Our architects, Sasaki and Associates, and Mecanoo of Delft, The Netherlands designed the building to achieve the Mayor’s sustainability goals of a LEED Silver certifiable facility. We have spent a lot of effort to achieve high-energy efficiency standards and environmental considerations for the comfort of the occupants and to the benefit of the community.

Mayor Menino and Boston Public Schools Superintendent (Carol) Johnson have re-envisioned the way the School Department operates. The office areas will be modeled on the concept of an “agile workplace” with open and flexible layouts to encourage increased collaboration among employees, with few private offices.  Glass walls will contribute to a transparent and collaborative environment with multiple “break-out” areas, conference rooms and small enclosures that can be used for more private discussions or meetings with parents and their children.

The first floor of the building will house mostly retail storefronts to help knit back the vibrant commercial retail district that Dudley Square is renowned for. A double height public lobby with art installations, historic artifacts and gallery space will mark the entry to the School Department’s headquarters. A ceremonial stairway will provide access to the School Committee Auditorium, parent and student services and a “concierge desk” to direct visitors to the upper floor office areas.

This project is also a major revitalization effort with additional investments including new business spaces.  Can you preview what the future holds for the Dudley Square visitor?

The street level floor will have approximately 18,500 square feet of retail space that can be subdivided into multiple potential configurations. The community has expressed interest in increased activity and vitality in the Square that can be sustained during the day and well into the evening.

The Boston Redevelopment Authority conducted a retail analysis and community survey to determine the preferred types of businesses we hope to attract. Among the most desired businesses for residents, employees and commuters are: a sit-down restaurant, ice cream / yogurt shop, bakery, sandwich shop, live music lounge, outlet clothing, sports pub and coffee shop with Wi-Fi access.

The city will issue an RFP to solicit proposals from retailers and business owners for the retail spaces. There is great interest in a “destination” restaurant to occupy the prominent space within the old Ferdinand storefront area. We will work with real estate brokers, word of mouth and the community to find the best operators for these spots. I look forward to the day when I can sit down and have a nice meal and listen to some live jazz music in a newly established restaurant at that location.

Give us the fun facts:  How much will the project cost? How many people are working on it now?  How many people will be coming to work in Dudley Square?

The Total Project Cost for the Dudley Municipal Center is budgeted at $119 million, which includes property acquisition, consultant fees, support staff costs and other related Project expenses. The actual construction cost alone is estimated to be close to $89 million.

Over the 24 or so months of construction, we anticipate over 800 construction workers, tradesmen, suppliers and installers will have been on site engaged in some type of activity to bring this facility to completion. The City and our General Contractor, Shawmut Design and Construction, are committed to increasing the number of workers who are Boston residents, local minorities and women.

Once completed, over 500 Boston Public School Department staff currently located at the downtown location at 26 Court Street as well as other satellite locations throughout the City will relocate here.


That’s a lot of new people!  What are the plans to accommodate parking and new traffic?

For those old enough to remember Dudley Square in its prime, the future will be more reminiscent of its former glory, lively with all the attendant hubbub, crowds and street life.

The project is fortunate to be located immediately adjacent to one of the largest transportation hubs in the City. Over 30,000 residents and commuters pass through Dudley Station daily. Our first goal is to encourage the use of public transportation. Our next goal is to reduce the number of cars entering Dudley Square through a process called Transportation Demand Management, which includes encouraging car-pooling, car sharing, and perhaps shuttle vans. While there will be a small amount of vehicle parking available in the basement of the building to accommodate BPS fleet vehicles, we are encouraging multi-modal use as well by providing sheltered bicycle storage and shower & locker facilities in the building. We have also vetted opportunities for nearby surface parking.

In addition, concurrent with this project, the City’s Transportation Dept. is planning overall improvements to the Dudley Square streetscape, with street geometry reconfigurations, intersection improvements and enhancements to pedestrian crossings and traffic islands. On-street parking regulations and signage will be revised, and increased enforcement is anticipated in the future.

There’s a huge crane in Dudley and construction is well underway.  What’s the response so far?

We’re seeing great outcomes from working through the Mayor’s Dudley Vision Task Force of local residents, business owners and abutters who provided invaluable guidance, constructive criticism, and expectations throughout the design and now through the construction process.

What I have found remarkable about this process is the teamwork across the full spectrum of City Departments and agencies. The Redevelopment Authority worked with the community to create the vision, the Budget Department set aside funding, and deployed creative financing mechanisms. The Water and Sewer Commission has replaced all of the antiquated utility services throughout the district, the Transportation Department will undertake improvements that improve circulation.  Inspectional Services has been supportive of our plans review, the Landmarks Commission has participated in our design process, to ensure we retain as much of the existing fabric of the Square as possible. And this isn’t just for the Dudley Municipal Complex.  We built a new Police Station here last year and are starting renovations to the Dudley Branch Library in 2013.  Additionally, we are working with the Department of Neighborhood Development and Dudley Main Streets on promoting better storefront improvements.

One thing is for certain: cities are dynamic.  I have gotten to know many of the Dudley folks over the last couple of years, and am inspired by their tenacity, resilience and striving to improve their community and the lives of their children, families and neighbors. Mayor Menino has delivered a broad cross section of resources from municipal government, but the City is only one of many players in the story of Dudley Square. We will have a big impact, but it will be up to the residents and business people to carry on the narrative and shape this community’s destiny.


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