Bayside building needs immediate repairs, report says

The former Bayside Expo Center is in “fair to poor” condition, with repairs needed to its roofs and parking lot, according to a report commissioned by the University of Massachusetts, the site’s new owner.

“We recommend complete replacement of the existing roofs as they are beyond [their] useful life and are currently leaking,” staffers with Commercial Construction Consulting, Inc., wrote in a report for UMass. Portions of the report were released to the Reporter upon request.

An area of 700 square feet in the food court was wet during the company’s inspection, the report noted.

The university bought the property, which has 275,000 square feet of exhibition space and 20 acres of parking, for $18.7 million earlier this year. UMass-Boston officials say they expect to make a final decision on how to use the property later this summer, and options range from demolishing the building, and using the lot for parking and classroom space.

They estimate the university will need as many as 700 parking spaces as it gears up for the construction of several new campus buildings, including a new science complex and center focused the late U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy.

UMass-Boston’s purchase of the former expo center threw a wrench into the works of a task force charged developing a “master plan” for development in the Columbia Point area. The mayorally-appointed task force meets next week for the first time in months to discuss the purchase and review changes proposed in response to public comments on a draft plan. The meeting is slated for July 14 at 6 p.m. in Boston College High School’s auditorium.

Originally built as a shopping center in 1966, the Bayside 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. But years later the site has “multiple deficiencies,” according to the report.

“These renovations, now 28 years old, are in poor condition and increasing maintenance and capital replacements will be required immediately and throughout the capital term as many items have reached their expected useful life,” the report says. “Some of the major items for significant repair or replacement include parking lot & concrete walkways, roofs, installation of additional roof drains, [heating, ventilating and air conditioning] equipment, storefront window, masonry façade including caulking & sealant replacement, water infiltration from beneath the slab in Hall A, exterior wall deflection, and interior wall settlement at the electric vault room at Hall C.”

The landscaping around the building, which saw in the last few years a sharp decline in business, and parking areas is also in poor condition, with many trees and shrubs overgrown.

The fire system is in “generally good” condition, according to the report. “There are several areas throughout the buildings that are not properly sprinkler protected,” the report added. “It appears that in numerous areas of the building with finished ceilings, that the spaces were renovated without regard for the sprinkler system.”

Any new renovations to the building will also trigger handicapped accessibility issues, an installation of an elevator, and require the university to go through a permitting process at the city and state level.
If university officials choose to use the building for classroom space and lecture halls, as well as campus offices, the building would have to be upgraded so that columns in the building could withstand a fire of two hours and the roof could withstand an hour-long fire, the report says. The cost of the upgrade is an estimated $1 million.

UMass officials have acknowledged that fixing up the building would end up costing tens of millions of dollars, particularly because of asbestos levels and other materials found on site that would need to be cleaned up. But they add that they were not surprised by most of the report’s conclusions.

“We are still reviewing the report and the findings and working toward making some decisions later this summer,” said UMass spokesman DeWayne Lehman.

He added: “Our interest was, from the beginning, in the property and not in the building.”