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Baker signs $3.76b bill that commits millions to Dorchester recipients: Harvard St. health center,

By Gintautas Dumcius, Managing Editor

November 16, 2022

Gov. Charlie Baker spoke to reporters at a recent event inside the Greater Boston Food Bank. (Governor’s Office photo)

Gov. Baker last week signed a $3.76 billion economic development package that includes millions for a new Harvard Street Neighborhood Health Center and the Dorchester Field House planned for Columbia Point.

The outlays, funded through a state tax surplus and $500 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) money, sends $112 million to the MBTA for work and safety improvements as the public transit agency faces federal scrutiny. They also include $350 million for Massachusetts hospitals, still struggling as the pandemic continues, $540 million for clean energy and climate programs, and $409.5 million for affordable housing.

The package is also chock full of money for local projects and set asides for a number of local venues and organizations, including $250,000 for The Guild, a social enterprise nonprofit, and $150,000 for the Dorchester Food Co-op, a collective of roughly 1,000 people in Fields Corner, Bowdoin-Geneva, and Four Corners.

But the biggest line items for local projects are the $8 million for the planning and construction of a state-of-the-art Harvard Street Neighborhood Health Center, and $5 million for the Dorchester Field House.

Harvard Street recently unveiled plans to turn city-owned vacant lots and a parking lot located on Old Road and Ellington Street into a new facility with roughly 80 units of affordable housing atop the structure. The long-in-the-works project, which could have family medicine, a pharmacy, and dental offices, was slowed by the pandemic. The center is partnering with the nonprofit developer The Community Builders on the project. Charley Murphy, the center’s CEO and a former state lawmaker, said in a recent Reporter interview that the project will be “transformational” for the area and the Blue Hill Avenue corridor.

On the other side of Dorchester, over on Columbia Point, the Martin Richard Foundation and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Dorchester will use their $5 million grant for their $55 million Field House, which has already $1 million through the federal government, courtesy of Congressman Stephen Lynch, and a second $1 million in funding from a $5.2 billion bill focused on repairs to state buildings that was signed by Baker back in August.

In October, the city’s Zoning Board of Appeal signed off on plans for the 75,000-square-foot, three-story Mount Vernon Street facility, which will include basketball courts, running tracks, an auditorium, and a cafeteria.

Other items included in the economic development packaged signed by Baker last week include:

  • $5 million to pay down debt service obligations incurred by the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate;

  • $750,000 for “rebuilding and modernization” of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation’s digital infrastructure system;

  • $144,000 for the Mattapan Community Health Center to pay for”increased salaries for nurses, and medical or clinical assistants”;

  • $100,000 for the Mattapan Food and Fitness Coalition.

The package did not include $500 million in tax rebates and $500 million in estate tax reforms and tax breaks for renters and seniors, among others. State lawmakers, as they were shuttling the package to Baker’s desk, said they dropped those measures, citing $3 billion in state refund checks that started heading out to taxpayers earlier this month. The state was required to send out those checks due to a 1986 law that caps tax revenues.

Baker had unsuccessfully argued that the state could afford to both send out the checks and pass permanent tax relief.

“Happy Hour” was also dropped from the final version. Baker had opposed the measure, which would have given cities and towns the option of allowing “Happy Hour” drink promotions. The promotional discounts were banned 38 years ago.

The Reporter’s Seth Daniel contributed to this report, which includes material from State House News Service.

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