Street-Works has decided to push out the start of the next phase of the Quincy Center redevelopment, taking the city up on a $250,000 extension.
The plan will allow the city’s developing partner to focus on the development of Merchant’s Row, a one-block mixed-use development enclosed within Hancock Street, Cottage Avenue, and Chestnut Street.
“I’ve told the city for eight to nine months that we were going to exercise [the extension] because the original program in Step 1 was much smaller and we’ve made it bigger. With it comes more moving parts,” said Ken Narva, co-founder of Street-Works.
Narva said the main reason he put off the full development of “Step 1,” which includes purchase of the Ross Garage and several surrounding properties in four city blocks, was mainly based on the market.
According to Narva, the Internet has changed the retail market in the last 18 months, making stores smaller and requiring more interactive online components. Two of Quincy Center’s yet unannounced primary retail anchors have wanted to reconfigure their stores differently as well.
Additionally, in the last six to nine months, office spaces have become more condensed. “Back office” components have made their way overseas and fewer people are working from company desks.
The hotel market has also picked up, and building that kind of use can happen more immediately that earlier anticipated, Narva said.
“We’re moving forward based on these major resets,” Narva said.
Because the purchase of the necessary parcels needs to happen around the same time, and construction on utilities and infrastructure comes before the construction of the bricks and mortar development, an overarching plan needs to be redeveloped.
Work is commencing now to accommodate these changes, requiring an extended timeline, Narva said.
“You have to have the time and flexibility to react to that, or else you’re building something outdated and useless before you start,” he said.
Narva predicted that these major changes would begin to settle into new norms, and that future shifts wouldn’t further delay plans.
The extension cost Street-Works $250,000, which will be placed alongside $750,000 in other extension payments for the delay in permitting “Step 1.” That money will either become the city’s if the redevelopment plan falls through, or will be put toward the purchase of the Ross Garage.
Even with the yearlong extension, Street-Works is well within the city’s deadlines.
Under the terms of the city’s contract with Street-Works, the purchase of the Ross Garage, and subsequent beginning of “Step 1,” has to be done by Jan. 1, 2015.
City officials were not overly concerned to hear the extension had been taken up, but were still anxious to receive a full update on the center redevelopment.
“Recent changes, delays, and frankly some of the bad publicity has eroded some of the optimistic of the average Quincy resident,” said City Councilor Doug Gutro, chairman of the Downtown Committee. “Residents are anxious for a more public affirmation of the near term and long term. … And there is a hunger out there for transparency.”
Gutro said he expects an update to the City Council in October, but added he was still optimistic.
Other city officials are wholeheartedly confident of the long term.
“We’re in the ground earlier than even originally anticipated, and Street-Works has brought partners along the way, every step, and there is no reason to believe that going forward the plan isn’t going to see itself through as it already has,” said Christopher Walker, spokesman for Mayor Thomas Koch.
Narva pointed to all the money invested in the project as more affirmation that Street-Works is only delaying, and not halting, future steps to the project.
“We’re not building a strip mall, we’re doing a downtown, and it comes together in fits and spurts. We’ve been at it 8 ½ years. It always takes time,” he said. “If you’re going to do something that’s memorable and enduring, you have to have patience.”