Contaminated navy yard reclaimed for premier rehabilitation hospital

Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital and Partners HealthCare System, Inc. Boston, MA

Project highlights

Client challenge:

Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital has been consistently ranked in U.S News and World Report’s Best Hospitals Issue each year since 1995, and its corporate entity, Partners HealthCare, recognized that it needed a new facility that matched such impressive credentials. Partners selected a property on the Boston waterfront that would provide access to the water for rehabilitation services, and beautiful surroundings for patients, families and staff – but those benefits could only be realized if Partners first undertook a significant effort to remediate the environmentally blighted Brownfield site with complex underground conditions. With a large project on a complicated site, they needed expert guidance to navigate the environmental, geotechnical, and regulatory challenges that could stand in the way of success.

Our approach:

The Haley & Aldrich team provided comprehensive expertise on environmental, geotechnical, regulatory, and operational matters. This led to a $23 million soil remediation program that returned the contaminated property back to unrestricted use suitable for this internationally recognized rehabilitation facility.

Value delivered:

  • An abandoned, contaminated property was returned to productive use, rehabilitated in the way that Spaulding provides rehabilitative services to the community.
  • The coordination of environmental and geotechnical services during design & construction provided cost & schedule savings.
  • An active program to engage stakeholders from an early stage prevented schedule impacts.
  • Early negotiations with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency resulted in a reduced investigation frequency, saving the project time and money and avoiding potential delays in project start.

Abandoned waterfront property recovered, becomes home to top-ranked rehabilitation facility 

The quest for value: managing risk in the face of uncertainty

When Partners HealthCare – the largest healthcare provider in Massachusetts, with dozens of affiliated hospitals and clinics -- was siting a major new 260,000-square-foot rehabilitation facility, it encountered an intriguing challenge. One of the leading contenders was a 5.3-acre waterfront parcel that had been part of the Charlestown Navy Yard, a ship building facility on the Boston Harbor from 1800 to 1974. Undoubtedly, developing the site would uncover legacy issues beneath the surface. 

Its long history with the Navy had exposed the site soils to a number of contaminants, including PCBs, petroleum, and metals. There were constructability issues as well. Initially part of the harbor, the site had been filled in the late 1800’s to create dry land for the expansion of the Yard. The Navy constructed a granite block seawall and steel sheet bulkheads, along with numerous facilities for storage, shipbuilding and repair operations.

To determine whether this site was a candidate for redevelopment, Partners had to decide whether the parcel’s liabilities outweighed its advantages. Could a new nine-story facility be built there with confidence? 

Surfacing the Issues, Providing the Answers

Partners and Spaulding are affiliated with some of the nation’s most accomplished medical minds – and they knew when it was time to call in a specialist. Partners asked Haley & Aldrich to provide comprehensive evaluations of future scenarios and impacts to their business, including potential regulatory requirements, environmental remediation issues, underground engineering issues, and of course the costs of it all.

According to David Storto, President of Spaulding Rehabilitation Network, the contribution from Haley & Aldrich made a big difference. “Being able to rely on Haley & Aldrich’s expertise on the regulatory dimensions of the project gave us full confidence from the start that we would be able to build our hospital on what could have been a very troublesome site.” Although the project could have gone forward with an Activity and Use Limitation, Partners instead decided to clean the site up to an “unrestricted use” standard. Part of the organization’s goal was to achieve LEED certification for its implementation of sustainable environmental and energy design practices.

In addition to advising the hospital about its regulatory, permitting and underground development decisions, Haley & Aldrich also used its experience with regulatory practices to advocate for Partners. Early negotiations with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency helped establish a working relationship that minimized drag on the construction schedule, and also reduced investigation costs. Haley and Aldrich also provided support to Partners’ community stakeholder engagement program from an early stage, so as to communicate environmental and underground issues clearly and prevent unexpected schedule interruptions. 

A New Legacy Begins

Construction of the new facility required the removal of 80,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil for environmental cleanup and foundation construction. The strategy included conducting remedial excavations concurrent with the construction of below-grade space in order to minimize both project costs and disruption to the neighborhood. In all, the soil remediation program took 12 months, at a cost of $23 million.

The $225 million Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital project broke ground in 2010, and the new state-of-the art facility opened its door to patients in April 2013. Among its first patients were 32 of the most catastrophically injured survivors of the Boston Marathon bombing. The facility handles 4,000 inpatient admissions, and 140,000 outpatient therapy visits each year, and has been awarded LEED Gold Certification.

For more information on this project, contact Lisa Turturro.