By Seth Daniel
Gov. Charlie Baker and Speaker Bob DeLeo committed to the first downpayment on what will be a major state and federal commitment to building a new, $199 million community living center to replace the old Quigley Memorial Hospital on the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home campus.
In his $2.26 billion Capital Budget, announced Thursday, May 11, on the front steps of the Quigley, Gov. Baker said they were making a downpayment on what would be a full funding mechanism in partnership with the federal government to build the project by 2020.
“We are here to announce a major, long-term commitment that will increase the quality and care provided to our veterans at Chelsea Soldiers’ Home,” said Baker.
“We’ve included in our Capital Plan an $8 million downpayment in Fiscal Year 2018 on an estimated $199 million project to build a new long-term care facility here,” he said. “We anticipate spending an estimated $70 million over the life of the project and 65 percent will be federally reimbursable. We have gone back and forth with the feds. They’re very excited and eager, which makes me optimistic this project is going to get done.”
Soldiers’ Home Supt. Cheryl Poppe said the new facility would be able to provide relevant services to veterans, including women veterans, and would get rid of the open wards that are a problem in the Quigley Hospital now.
“Governor Baker’s Capital Budget will ensure our facility will provide quality care with dignity, honor and respect, and it will continue well into the future and meet the changing needs of our veterans,” she said. “It will be a new Community Living Center with an enhanced home environment and more privacy. It is what our veterans deserve.”
The $8 million investment for the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home will begin the process of constructing a new long-term care facility in conjunction with the federal government, pending final approval from the Department of Veterans Affairs. The facility is one of two state operated soldiers’ homes that provide both long-term care and domiciliary residential services. The long-term care facility in the Quigley Memorial Hospital opened in 1949 and offers long term care beds for veterans who served as far back as World War II. The current facility also provides independent living in the domiciliary for close to 200 veterans.
Baker said the $8 million seed money in this year’s Capital Budget will go towards design of the facility. Future Capital Budgets will pay for the construction costs, with about $130 million of the project costs coming in reimbursements from the federal government – if approved.
He said it would be a phased approach, but wouldn’t touch Malone Park next door.
“The best way to describe what we’re doing is to recall Gillette Stadium,” he said. “Like that one, we will build on the existing parking lot first, then demolish the old Hospital, and then build a parking lot where it was.”
He said they would break ground in the fall of 2018.
A possible completion date was marked for some time in 2020.
Speaker DeLeo said he was fully on board with the project, and has always been a major supporter of the Soldiers’ Home – which serves many people from his district in Revere and Winthrop.
“I know that with this commitment and this project, they will be able to make the Soldiers’ Home more vibrant than it ever has been for our veterans,” he said. “Massachusetts has been ranked first in a number of different categories – whether in education or environmental policy. What many people often forget is that we’re also the number one state when it comes to veterans’ programs.”
Councillor Luis Tejada, who represents the area, said he was very excited to hear about the commitment to updating the Quigley. He said they had seen surveyors in the parking lot recently, and he had many calls from neighbors that were nervous about the Malone Park issue. However, he said he was relieved to know it was for something good like this.
“It’s great to see that the reason for the surveying is because they are going to build a new hospital,” he said. “It’s great to see they’ll take down the old one and build a new one to improve the quality of life for these residents.”
Council President Leo Robinson, a Vietnam veteran, said he was relieved to see the investment after so many years.
“Being a veteran and a neighbor up here, it’s a very proud day for Chelsea,” he said. “This is real progress and the veterans here deserve all that we can give them.”
Added Councillor Damali Vidot, “Anyone who has made the sacrifice to serve our country deserves the best services we can give them and I’m happy for this community and our entire community.”