For Immediate Release
March 03, 2011
For More Information Contact:
Mayor's Press Office
Today, during his annual address to the Boston Municipal Research Bureau, Mayor Thomas M. Menino announced major new development plans for the old Ferdinand Furniture building that will revitalize the long-dormant Dudley Square neighborhood of Boston. The mayor also addressed the union protests in Wisconsin saying Boston must come together to settle union negotiations and correctly navigate a “rough” budget road in the near future.
“We gather with gratitude for Boston’s relative good fortune through tough times,” said Mayor Menino. “And we look ahead with confidence. As we do, there is much debate in the country about government and priorities. I weigh in today the best way I know how: not with fancy words, but with concrete action. Amid all the rhetoric, much of what we see is politicians working to get a leg up. I am about the politics of getting going. In Boston, when we hit a roadblock, we return to the drawing board, we innovate, and we move ahead.”
Mayor Menino urged that fixing the “economic disparities” between the different neighborhoods of Boston was primary to keeping the city’s overall economic structure on track and the first to be addressed will be Dudley Square. Acknowledging that plans for the neighborhood’s revitalization were delayed because of the tough economy, Mayor Menino said the city has adjusted its strategy to fit today’s financial climate based on two principles. Step number one is to undertake the first realignment of the city’s building portfolio in decades by:
- Reducing the number of city administrative office buildings from nine to four to avoid redundant maintenance and operating costs.
- Relocating city departments across the city to 26 Court Street currently occupied by the Boston Public Schools (BPS) and moving BPS headquarters to Dudley Square, closer to the 56,000 students they serve and their parents.
- Moving Boston Fire Department headquarters from a prime development parcel on Southampton Street to our existing city building at 1010 Massachusetts Ave. that will also become a central permitting center to serve businesses and homeowners.
Second, the City will utilize a new public-private development structure to construct the new office building at the Ferdinand Furniture building. By borrowing to redevelop the site, the City will make sure the new building serves its public purpose and will issue a Request for Proposal (RFP) to hire a developer to provide advice and expertise and to attract suitable retail tenants.
This unique partnership allows the City to move forward by using state-of-the-art design technology and office planning to lower construction costs, allowing a private partner to operate the building once it’s built to keep energy and maintenance costs low and affording the developer the responsibility to lease and manage retail space on the first floor. Construction will begin within 12 months, will create over 350 jobs and is estimated to cost up to $115 million.
“I know there will be pushback as we go – ‘The Ferdinand is too big or too small, the process is too fast or too slow, the project is too public or too private, it’s never going to happen or it never should,’” said Mayor Menino. “You know what I say? It’s too important. It’s too central. It’s too urgent. We will never know how great Boston can be until Dudley Square is great once again.”
Of the well-publicized union negotiations taking place in Wisconsin, the mayor insisted that Boston come together to settle union contract negotiations and to battle the tough fiscal climate ahead. A key issue atop the mayor’s legislative agenda is the formation of a Group Insurance Commission (GIC) for the City, one that mimics the same commission currently operating at the state level. As health insurance for City of Boston employees will increase more than $25 million this year and reach almost $300 million overall, a city GIC incorporating equal numbers of union, city and independent representation to design employee health care plans will save more than $1 million a month.
“Let me say this about the debate over public unions that is happening in Wisconsin and sweeping the country – solving our budget challenges is about bringing people together, not driving them apart,” said Mayor Menino. “Middle class work with decent benefits, on the one hand, and innovation and progress, on the other, are not mutually exclusive. I believe in collective bargaining. We are living in different times and our negotiations have to meet those new needs. On health care reform this means flexibility in plan design, giving cities the same power the state has.”
As negotiations with the Boston Teachers Union continue, city officials are bargaining for making available more time in the classrooms for students, the flexibility to assign teachers where they are most needed and the ability to evaluate teachers for rewards.
“If we move away from a contract that serves adult interests: the kids are going to learn,” said Mayor Menino. “As mayors from around the Commonwealth go to the State House next week to talk about benefits reform, people at the extremes will say these are the new fault lines. We know better in Boston. Ours is a simple story of dollars and sense. There’s no political agenda. No power struggle. We just can’t afford the benefits of years past and we can’t do new things the same old way. Those who will say Massachusetts is the next front overstate the case but if we don’t make reasonable changes here time could prove them right.”