A rendering of Dorchester’s future Harvard Street Neighborhood Health Center (Courtesy of Boston Planning and Development Agency)
The Boston Planning and Development Agency is renovating the Harvard Street Neighborhood Health Center, which is expected to improve health care in the city’s largest and most diverse neighborhood.
The BPDA board last week gave unanimous approval to move the center to three little-used sites adjacent to its existing headquarters on Blue Hill Avenue in Dorchester. According to project documents, the renovation of the facility will increase staffing by 10-15% from its current workforce of more than 100.
An independent non-profit organization, HSNHC has operated at 632 Blue Hill Avenue since 1976. Officials said the building’s history dates back to the early 1900s, making it difficult to meet the demand for services from residents of Dorchester and the surrounding area.
“The building is very old and inefficient,” HSNHC president and CEO Charlie Murphy said before the BPDA board greenlit the project on Thursday. “The new building will allow him to house all the programs under one roof, making it much more efficient. We can increase it.”
Project documents do not specify the cost of the project at the adjacent Ellington Street and Old Road sites near Franklin Park, nor when construction will begin and end. The mayor’s press office did not respond to a Herald inquiry on Saturday seeking details.
The Zoning Appeals Board will also vote on the health center before the BPDA continues the design and review process, according to agency project manager Eileen Michaud.
When all is completed, HSNHC will be transformed into a three-story, 40-foot high facility with clinical, laboratory and pharmacy services. Spaces are also available for community events and temporary programs.
Officials are also considering expanding the center’s footprint on Blue Hill Avenue in a possible future stage.
Last year, HSNHC provided care to 7,600 patients in more than 35,000 visits. This is underscored by the numbers given in the project documentation. More than 95% of the patients were people of color, the majority had incomes below the poverty line and were dependent on Medicare or Medicaid. Some were uninsured.
BPDA Director Brian Miller was enthusiastic about HSNHC.
“Health centers are very important to our neighborhood,” he said. “It’s amazing to be able to do that work in that old building. This new space is amazing.”