Spaulding plans $200m Charlestown clinic

By Casey Ross
Globe Staff / April 9, 2009
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After a four-year delay, Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital is resuming plans to move out of its current building on the banks of the Charles River into a $200 million facility it intends to build in the Charlestown Navy Yard.

Spaulding, one of the nation's largest rehabilitation facilities, is proposing to build an eight-story hospital with 132 rooms, down from its current number of beds of 196. The 221,000-square-foot facility would have larger rooms and an array of amenities, including swimming pools, therapy rooms, gyms, community space, and an outpatient clinic.

Officials said the hospital's current building on Nashua Street, built in 1970, is obsolete. The rooms are semiprivate and cramped, and do not include enough space for patient-care equipment. Despite the need for a newer building, hospital executives said their ability to proceed will depend on raising money.

"We still have to go back to our finance committee to request construction funds," said John Messervy, director of capital and facility planning for Partners HealthCare System Inc., which owns Spaulding. "Depending on what happens in the larger world of economics, that approval may or may not be forthcoming."

Hospitals are struggling from declining donations and higher borrowing costs for construction. The cost of the proposed facility has doubled since Spaulding initially proposed it in 2005.

The project was put on hold after declines in federal reimbursement to rehabilitation hospitals caused Partners executives to rethink plans for the move. Messervy said yesterday that Partners recently gave the go-ahead for the facility, and an updated proposal was filed with the city in late March.

Hospital executives will pursue permits during the next several months, and will begin to seek funding for construction next year.

City officials are hoping Spaulding's project will spur additional development in the Navy Yard, which was decommissioned in 1974 and later acquired by the Boston Redevelopment Authority.

"There are a couple of other parcels there that are primed for related development," said John Palmieri, director of the BRA. "A life science cluster in the city is something we'd like to encourage."

Partners operates several research buildings in the Navy Yard. It also owns a vacant lot adjacent to the Spaulding site that could accommodate large-scale development.

Spaulding has hired the Perkins + Will to design the new building, which is scheduled to be completed in 2012. A rendering of the proposed facility shows a facade of gray brick and glass.

Partners has not decided what to do with the current Nashua Street site once the new facility is completed. The land is considered valuable due to its proximity to the Charles River, North Station, and TD Banknorth Garden.

Construction of the new facility will include completion of a new section of the Harborwalk and a new pier for the hospital's adaptive water sports program. Spaulding will also build laboratories, conference rooms, a pharmacy, and a two-level underground parking garage with space for 203 cars.

Casey Ross can be reached at