Chamber backs EBNHC’s proposal for Somerset Avenue

Eric Gaynor, executive director of the Winthrop Chamber of Commerce, said that Chamber members support the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center’s clinic that is being proposed for a site on Somerset Avenue.

Gaynor offered the official support of the Winthrop business organization during a Planning Board meeting Monday night at Town Hall.

The plan is to demolish the 10,000-square foot building on Somerset Avenue and build a brand new one-story medical facility.

In an interview after the Planning Board meeting, Gaynor said the Chambers supports the plan but it has concerns about parking.

“We’re 100 percent behind the project,” said Gaynor. “This facility will be a magnet for Winthrop Center. It will definitely draw people in. It will help to revitalize the area. They’ve proven to be good neighbors and the project itself will have a definite economic benefit for the community. It will create jobs and that’s really important right now.”

Gaynor said there will not only be construction jobs but also staffing positions for the center.

Most importantly, Gaynor said, the EBNHC clinic building will be a huge improvement aesthetically over the current dilapidated building that Gaynor termed “an eyesore.”

“The whole area has been vacant for a long time,” said Gaynor. “This brand new building can have a positive effect on property values. The residents who live in the Somerset Avenue area are happy about this project.”

Gaynor expressed concerns about the parking situation for the new EBNHC facility.

“They have parking lot in the back of the building and intend to create four handicapped parking spaces,” said Gaynor. “There is also room for people to pull in with their vehicles and drop off. The problem is that they don’t have parking for their (11-12) employees.”

Gaynor said visitors to the facility will likely have to use the municipal lot.

“People might have to walk a block to the clinic, which is not such a bad thing, because if you’re going to be passing businesses as you do so and that creates foot traffic,” said Gaynor. “Patients can also be customers for other businesses. What’s good about it is that there’s going to be high turnover. Nobody is going in to the clinic for any serious procedure These are doctors’ visits. People are generally going to be in and out of the center pretty quickly.”

Planning Board Chairman Richard Dimes said that following a review of a report that will be prepared by the town’s site plan review committee, the board could vote on the project at its November 8 meeting.

“From the comments made at the meeting, I felt that the merchants were basically for it,” said Dimes. “There is some concern about the parking situation. The next step is for the site plan review committee to review it and then we have to make our decision. From the acceptance of having a health center, it looks good. The major obstacle at this point is parking.”

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