Nearly everyone was on hand last Friday for the groundbreaking of the new East Boston Neighborhood Health Center (EBNHC) that is slated to be built in the Town Center.
After starting out this year with a proposal to knock down the current building and rebuild a new building, the EBNHC changed paths earlier this year, announcing that it would scale back the project a bit and re-use the old building that sits on the site.
“It’s always tough to do a redevelopment or re-use of a building and meet code and be efficient and green and all of those things,” said EBNC CEO Jack Craddock. “This has been a challenge of a building that’s had lots of compromises, but I think everyone will be pleased with it.”
The project is slated to open for business in the Spring of 2012, which is less than a year away.
The long-vacant building will be transformed into nine exam rooms, a spacious waiting area, an onsite lab and numerous consultation rooms. Additionally, three unrelated retail spaces will be developed for rent or lease to local businesses.
One aspect of the health center will include Saturday walk-in hours, meaning that the facility won’t just be open during business hours on weekdays.
Finally, the health center will be completely integrated into the existing EBNHC network, including a shuttle bus running back and forth from Eastie to Winthrop.
Jim Taylor, medical director emeritus for EBNHC, said he was excited to bring better health care access to Winthrop.
“As a Winthrop resident, I am happy to be able to continue to provide primary care to this community and that access to health care will be even better and more readily available,” he said.
One of the concerns lately has been that many local primary care doctors have retired or moved their practices. It has left a critical hole in local health care services, and that’s something EBNHC executives and local leaders have been eyeing with some concern.
“You’ve probably heard the expression ‘win-win’ a lot of times, but this project really is that kind of ‘win-win,’” said State Rep. Bob DeLeo (D-Winthrop). “It gives the citizens of Winthrop the access to excellent health care and to great preventative health care in the confines of our own community…Having them come into our Town and in our Center is really, really important to me.
“With so many people coming and going to appointments and so many employees now working here in the Center, I think this will be an important boost to the economy of our Center,” DeLeo continued. “I think this is going to be an integral part of the growth of Winthrop and the comeback of Winthrop as well.”
The groundbreaking also served as an introduction for two key players in the upcoming center.
Dr. Mari Bentley was introduced as the new medical director for the Winthrop Health Center, and Craddock also officially anointed his successor, current Deputy CEO Manny Lopes.
“We like to say he is the heir apparent to me,” said Craddock. “I am not retiring just yet, but I will at some point, and Manny will be taking my place.”
After the ceremonies, Craddock said that the three retail spaces are still up for grabs and have a chance to be a dynamic space for local start-up businesses.
“We’re not reserving it for anything at all right now,” he said. “It would be ideal if they were health-related businesses, but they don’t have to be at all. We would also like to help out some start-up businesses – local start-ups – that would be a great fit for those spaces as well.”