Harvard Street Health Center eyes nearby city land buy for new home

Harvard Street Neighborhood Health Center is exploring a plan to buy city-owned property near its current location on Blue Hill Avenue to construct a new, state-of-the-art facility. The city of Boston’s Department of Neighborhood Development is expected to issue a formal Request for Proposals (RFP) for the two adjacent parcels on Ellington Street and Old Road next week.

Charley Murphy, the president and CEO of Harvard Street, told the Reporter this week that the 47-year-old health center has been “quietly looking” at building a new facility since he took charge in 2013. The city-owned parcels that will be put up for sale are next to property on Ellington Street that the health center already owns and uses for staff parking.

Murphy said he attended a public meeting held last March with DND officials in Dorchester to seek community input in the potential re-uses of the properties, which formerly housed an auto repair garage and gas station.

Murphy said that he is awaiting details from the RFP, which is scheduled to be made public on July 15. A developer would then be selected by October from applicants presented to DND officials.

“In our current building, we make do with what we have and use every square foot that we have,” said Murphy. “We get the job done, but with this opportunity— if we were able to move forward— it would be a game changer for our patients to have a new, state of the art facility.”

Murphy said that a new center— if built on the three lots along Old Road and Ellington— might add more than 10,000 square feet of additional capacity for the health center, which, he notes, is restricted in where it can go to site a new facility.

“We are required to service a catchment area and we can’t bounce to another neighborhood, so our opportunities for a new site are limited,” noted Murphy. “Certainly since we own the lot next to [the city land] on Ellington, we do have an eye on it and we are looking forward to getting the RFP.”

Harvard Street currently occupies about 22,000 square feet of space in a facility on Blue Hill Avenue and has been growing under Murphy’s leadership. In April, the health center launched a new veterans outreach center in partnership with the City of Boston and CeltiCare Health.

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