They say it would speed up construction projects at the Quincy Adams and Braintree stations.
QUINCY — MBTA officials say using the site of a former West Quincy Lowe’s for a commuter parking lot and storage facility could help accelerate projects at two nearby Red Line stations.
Chief Real Estate Officer Richard Henderson told the the MBTA Fiscal & Management Control Board Monday that the 13-acre site, which has a 102,000-square-foot building and space for 442 cars, would let the agency complete construction projects at the Quincy Adams and Braintree stations “well ahead of the current schedules.” The property has been unused since late 2018, when Lowe’s closed more than 40 of its stores, including the location in Quincy.
Henderson said the MBTA’s capital delivery department, which oversees construction, approached him with the idea as the T’s real estate team was considering buying the 599 Burgin Parkway site and using it as a bus maintenance and storage facility.
“Staff has been conducting due diligence on this site for a new, modern bus maintenance facility in recent months and in the mean time capital delivery approached us about their desire to accelerate the ongoing repairs to the Braintree and Quincy Adams garages,” Henderson said. “That acceleration can’t be done, however, without displacing several hundred spaces.”
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The parking garages at the Braintree and Quincy Adams stations have been under construction since 2018 as part of a five year, $8 billion capital plan. Different portions of the garages — which together accommodate about 3,500 cars — have been closed to commuters at various times since the projects, originally slated to be completed in 2021, began.
McFarland didn’t say how much faster the projects would proceed if 400 cars were diverted to the Lowe’s site each day.
Henderson said the T’s operations department has also needs more warehouse space to store equipment and could potentially use the existing Lowe’s building.
“The Burgin Parkway site provides a potential opportunity to meet both of these needs,” Henderson said. “We’ve reached out to the party that controls the property through a long term lease, and they’re receptive to considering this.”
The MBTA board voted to give the T’s general manager the authority to negotiate a lease or license on the site. In the meantime, Henderson said his department would continue working to decide if it wants to move forward with the maintenance facility plan.
Joe Pesaturo, a spokesman for the MBTA, said the agency hopes to start using the lot in the first quarter of 2020.
City Councilor Brain Palmucci, whose ward includes the Lowe’s property, says he opposes the idea because of concerns about traffic at the already-busy intersection of Centre Street and Burgin Parkway.
“That would operate very differently from a retail establishment like Lowe’s, where the traffic isn’t concentrated into a single time frame. I just don’t see that being feasible,” he said. “That intersection cannot handle a couple hundred additional commuters.”
The decision about whether to lease the land to the MBTA, or any other tenant, is in the hands of Lowe’s, said Thomas McFarland, real estate broker for the site’s owner George Brewster. When the company closed its Quincy location last year, it was halfway through a 20-year lease on the property and is continuing to pay rent and insure the building.
“Lowe’s can assign their rights and their lease to anyone that can legally go in there,” McFarland said. “Whatever they can get approved by the City of Quincy is legal and not up to the owner. It’s the same concept as subleasing an apartment.”
Palmucci says there is little the city can do to block the parking plan. Under the city’s licensing laws, most companies would have to get a property’s change-of-use approved by the Quincy Licensing Board. But because the MBTA is a state agency, it’s exempt from local permitting requirements, he said.
“But I would certainly have the city look at what, if any, options the residents have to engage with the MBTA,” Palmucci said.
Pesaturo said last week that if a new maintenance facility is built on the Lowe’s site, it would service 120 buses that travel routes in Quincy, Weymouth, Hingham and Braintree, as well as a few that extend into other areas. The new facility would replace the bus depot now on Hancock Street.
City officials say they’ve also heard online retail giant Amazon express interest in the site.
Reach Mary Whitfill at email@example.com.