Boston Calling’s City Hall Plaza Deemed ‘Structurally Unsafe’ One Week Before Festival

Boston Calling Music Festival, 2014.
Boston Calling Music Festival, 2014.

According to The Boston Herald, just days before the Boston Calling music festival over Memorial Day weekend, a top city manager hired a contractor to “secretly fix a huge defect” in City Hall Plaza, the festival’s venue.

The incident was apparently “unbeknownst” to the Walsh administration, who told the Herald they found out about the incident yesterday after inquiries from Herald reporters.

The Herald reports that Michael Galvin, the head of the city’s Property Management Division, put up a tent to hide “emergency repairs” on a 30-foot-by-30-foot danger zone, where the remains of a now defunct fountain had been capped in 2006. Reports from engineers with Weidlinger Associates stated that the structure could collapse at any moment a week before the concerts began.

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The structure was first deemed unsafe in 2012 by the same engineers. Galvin’s crew then cordoned off the danger zone with bike racks.

"The area shall not be loaded with vehicles or pedestrians until the area can be shored. The allowable load capacity is ZERO," the engineers wrote in their May 16 report.

The report also stated that the capping of the old fountain had been done “in conflict with construction documents,” and the fountain pool’s stud walls were “essentially unsupported.”

Weidlinger Associates said they filed a report on the project, but declined further comment.

After the festival’s organizers said they needed the bike racks removed for concert stages, Galvin told the Herald he “sprang into action,” and hired Classic Construction to do the emergency repair for $20,000.

Walsh told The Herald he was “not happy” about the situation. He also stated:

"Michael Galvin does great work for the city of Boston but I was shocked to find this out... I am going to correct this...We certainly acted too slowly on this. Waiting until the last minute (to make repairs) is not acceptable. I am going to make sure something like this does not happen again."

The fountain was capped in 2006 by an MBTA contractor who gave it a five-year life expectancy.

But City Hall Plaza has hosted many large annual events since 2011, including a seven-week run for the Big Apple Circus and a three-day Phantom Gourmet BBQ Beach Party, which features a dance floor and “10 tons” of imported sand.

Boston Calling co-founder Brian Appel told that festival organizers continue to focus on safety.

“The safety of our fans has been our number one priority since the festival’s inception. We have worked closely with property management to ensure the grounds are safe and secure and will continue to do so,” said Appel.

Mayor Walsh told in an email message that he was “concerned that an emergency repair had to be made on City Hall Plaza, despite a prior assessment showing that work needed to be done much earlier.”

“Waiting until the last minute to do this work, and not securing bids is upsetting, and not acceptable conduct,” Walsh said.