By Seth Daniel
It’s been going up in the distance for some time.
Floor by floor, the glass exterior has risen up to its 13-story height, and the promise of nearly 4,000 workers coming into the area has also been on the horizon.
Gradually, it’s changed the skyline in the distance, and on June 13, it’s going to begin operations and perhaps change traffic patterns for those in Charlestown and Everett.
The Partners Healthcare building in Assembly Row – just over the line from Everett and Charlestown – will eventually bring close to 4,000 hospital administration workers to the area from 14 locations currently spread out all over Greater Boston – including many workers nearby in the Schrafft’s Building in Charlestown.
“It is a 13-story building,” said Rich Copp of Partners Healthcare. “We’re ready to open the building with the goal of it beginning on June 13. To be clear, it’s going to take at least 18 months for all of the employees to get under one roof. When it is finished, it will be close to 4,000 employees at that location.”
Some of the first wave will actually come from very close, he said.
“The big one initially is the Schrafft’s Building,” he said. “We have a large number of employees in Schrafft’s and those employees are in the first wave for the new building.”
He said it is also important to note that the building will not have clinical operations, but only administrative jobs like information systems, human resources and other administrative features.
“While the work we’re doing there supports the clinical side, it’s important to know this is not a medical facility,” he said.
The Partners Building in Somerville has been somewhat controversial over the last few years as traffic concerns in Sullivan Square have amplified with the fight over the Wynn casino and numerous other development plans in the immediate area.
While Wynn has pledged private monies as part of the mitigation of the traffic problems, many argue that the Somerville side hasn’t done its part. Those critics have often pointed to the Partners building, which will bring in about the same numbers of employees as the Wynn casino in the end. Many in Charlestown have been wary of so many new workers coming into the Partners building and the prospects of them using the already-jammed Rutherford Avenue and Sullivan Square corridors.
State Rep. Dan Ryan has been one of those vocal critics
“Partners is a major employer in the region,” he said. “They will still have a large footprint in Boston and a positive impact on Charlestown. Somerville’s gain should not be viewed as Charlestown’s loss. As Everett’s gain should not be viewed as Somerville’s or Charlestown’s loss. We need to look at these changes as regional possibilities and address them as three communities with mutual interest. Number one is getting that rotary fixed. Our non-profit teaching hospitals are as legally obligated to mitigate public health concerns as casinos are. We should make sure that the thousands of cars they are bringing through Sullivan Square are added into our equations and paid for adequately.”
Copp said that while they did build a large parking garage, they chose the Somerville location because it fronts a brand new Orange Line T Station, which he expects many employees will use.
“One reason we selected the location is it’s on the Orange Line and public transportation,” he said. “The state recently built a stop at Assembly Row and it’s literally right at the front door of our building. We expect employees will utilize public transportation, but we also have built a parking garage.”
For Partners, Copp said the decision was made based on becoming more efficient and saving money. With 11 hospitals in its network, including Mass General Hospital, Spaulding Rehabilitation and Brigham & Women’s Hospital, the need was to have more people in one place coordinating the administration.
“Currently, the administrative positions are spread out among 14 different locations throughout the Boston area,” he said. “That includes locations on Merrimack Street in Boston, Huntington Avenue in Boston, and locations in Wellesley and Needham too. The idea is to coordinate and bring everyone under one roof. We figure we’ll have efficiencies that are created by that. We also expect we’ll save $10-$15 million a year in lease expenses by working under one roof instead of paying 14 different leases.”
Copp said employees would transfer over to the new buildings over a period of 18 months as leases in the 14 locations expire.