Expo building is coming down soon; UMass sees 600 more parking spots

In the wake of the roof collapse at the Bayside Exp Center last week, UMass Boston will speed up its long-planned demolition of the partly collapsed building to make way in the short term for more parking spaces for students and faculty.

The building, vacant since the university purchased it in 2010, was scheduled to be demolished this summer. Now, that will happen “sometime in the next couple of weeks,” said Dorothy Renaghan, assistant vice chancellor for facilities management.

The knock-down will create 600 additional spaces as well as an additional campus shuttle stop and allow for landscaping and a better connection to the waterfront from Mt. Vernon Street.

“Parking at Bayside has become incredibly important to us and we need more of it as things come to a crescendo in the next two years,” Renaghan told the Reporter on Monday.

The university currently has 2,353 parking spots – which is often not enough to meet demand, according to UMass Boston spokesperson DeWayne Lehman. The school has overflow parking agreements with a neighboring church and other local businesses. Nearly half of those currently available parking spots, 1,300, are available for students at the Bayside Expo Center alone.

UMass Boston has accounted for additional parking with garages sketched out in its 25-year master plan. Neither is sited for the Bayside spot, and, said Lehman, the campus “won’t see a parking garage until 2017.”

As to the Expo Center building, UMass Boston continued to heat the building to ensure that the emergency sprinkler pipes would not break from the cold. As the roof collapsed, one of the rooftop heating implements crashed down onto a gas main, causing the neighboring Bayside office building to be evacuated. The Boston Teachers Union, also located next to the center, lost power for two days after the collapse because its utilities were connected to the center building , Renaghan said.

UMass Boston purchased the property –a 275,000-square-foot building with an adjacent 20 acres for parking – for $18.7 million in 2010 and commissioned a report that found the building in “fair to poor” condition with “multiple deficiencies” noted.

Originally built as a shopping center in 1966, the site was converted into an exhibition hall in 1982. That was the last major renovation, which included roofing over several outdoor spaces, and upgrade to construction codes and standards.

The location has been mentioned as a likely candidate for the Athletes Village should Boston win the 2024 Summer Olympics Games. Both the adjacent Boston Teachers Union and DoubleTree have said they will go on with expansion plans despite the Olympics possibilities.

Renaghan could not say whether planning for the Olympic games would affect the Bayside parcel’s fate. “Hasn’t impacted me at all, but that doesn’t mean anything. I’m the implementer for that which has been decided. That doesn’t mean others aren’t, but I can’t speak to that.”