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Construction manager named for Ferdinand site

Sandra Larson | 2/6/2012, 7:02 a.m.
City Councilor Tito Jackson speaks at a Jan. 26 meeting of the Dudley Vision Task Force. Looking on are Shawmut Construction CEO Tom Goemaat (center) and Joseph Mulligan of the city’s Property and Construction Management Department. Sandra Larson

At meeting, concerns are voiced on noise, traffic, air quality, jobs

Shawmut Design and Construction will be the construction manager for the Dudley Square Municipal Office Facility, the $115 million project to redevelop the site of the long-vacant Ferdinand’s furniture store in the heart of Dudley Square.

The selection of the Boston firm was announced by Joseph Mulligan, deputy director of capital construction at the City of Boston’s Property and Construction Management Department at a Jan. 26 meeting of the Dudley Vision Advisory Task Force.

Shawmut projects include the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum addition, the African Meeting House restoration, the Greater Boston Elder Services residential building and the Codman Square Health Center expansion now in progress.

The meeting was intended to address Ferdinand project work force opportunities with the new construction management team on hand. But before the Shawmut team was introduced, attendees fired questions at Mulligan about a host of other concerns: construction dust, noise, traffic problems, impact of construction on area businesses, and poor communication and outreach.

 “In 14 months, you can put a person out of business,” said Task Force member Donovan Walker. “You need to let businesses know what’s happening so they can be prepared — and this has to come before the project if you want the project to be a success.”

Last February, when Mayor Thomas M. Menino announced the Ferdinand redevelopment plan, many residents and elected officials expressed relief that the eyesore dominating Dudley Square for decades would be rejuvenated. But the reality of living, working and maneuvering in a construction zone is hitting home.

In what city officials call “an aggressive timeline” to have the new Boston Public School headquarters and retail space ready as soon as possible, the groundbreaking is slated for March, and the new building is expected to open in late summer 2014.

But attendees at this meeting seemed to want things to slow down.

Throughout the meeting, which at many points became heated, people repeated that information is not being disseminated well. There was a sense the city is pushing on with a “done deal” without enough community input.

Task Force member Joyce Stanley said Ferdinand project planners do not seem to be communicating adequately with the MBTA and Boston Water and Sewer Commission (BWSC), both of which will soon be launching improvement projects in Dudley Square.

Roxbury resident Connie Forbes asked about the project’s environmental impact. She and other attendees cited the high asthma rate in Roxbury and worried about dust and hazardous materials.

Kai Grant wondered if ideas she expressed in earlier meetings for creative use of the building’s rooftop would ever be addressed.

There are fears that the local community won’t know in advance about how to lease the new retail spaces, and that opportunities will be spoken for before local residents get a shot at them.

“We want to be informed, not updated,” said Walker, summing up concerns that better communication is needed — and sooner rather than later.

Dana Whiteside, Dudley Square Vision Project manager and deputy director of community development for the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA), worked to calm the unrest.