BY PAUL LEIGHTON
---- — BEVERLY — The MBTA board of directors has approved $25 million to build a parking garage in Beverly, clearing the way for construction to begin this fall.
The vote, which came at the board’s meeting on Wednesday at Somerville City Hall, was expected but is still a significant step for a project that has been under consideration for decades.
“It was unanimously voted in favor, and now we’re just weeks away from construction,” said Mayor Bill Scanlon, who attended the meeting along with City Planner Tina Cassidy. “It’s terrific.”
Scanlon said the garage is scheduled to be finished by December 2013.
The garage will be built along Rantoul Street next to the Depot Square condominiums, within a short walking distance of the train depot on Park Street. It will be three stories tall with parking for 515 vehicles and a covered walkway over Pleasant Street to the station.
Scanlon has been trying to get funding for an MBTA parking garage since his first term in office in 1995. Beverly is the second-busiest of the state’s 134 commuter rail stations but has little off-street parking.
“It puts more focus on Beverly as a center of activity,” Scanlon said. “I think it bodes well for our restaurants and shops.”
The $25 million approved by the MBTA covers only the construction costs. The total cost of the project is $34.1 million, including $4.2 million to buy the land, $3.5 million to design the garage, and $1.4 million in administration and other costs, according to the MBTA.
The MBTA and the state and federal government are paying most of the costs. The city is contributing $496,325.
The MBTA selected Suffolk Construction to serve as the construction manager on the project. Suffolk submitted the highest bid of the three finalists but was selected under what the MBTA calls a “best value” procurement methodology.
Suffolk estimated construction costs at $21,364,714. Consigli Construction bid $21,360,714, while Walsh Brothers bid $20,498,535.
Ed Hunter, the MBTA’s assistant general manager of design and construction, told the board that Suffolk’s proposal was the “most realistic” and “provided the best value, even at the highest cost, based on the very high quality of the proposed work,” according to notes from the meeting provided by the MBTA.
Suffolk Construction is based in Boston and has an office in Danvers.
The garage will be set back 75 feet from Rantoul Street to leave room for future development involving apartments or condominiums with retail space. Development could also take place on top of the garage. The state is encouraging such “transit-oriented development” near train and subway stations to promote public transportation and revitalize downtown areas.
The garage will be three stories tall with four levels of parking, including on the roof. The first story will be below ground level as you look from Rantoul Street.
The facade will be mostly brick, a design change the MBTA agreed to after listening to concerns of residents at public hearings last year.
“We’re pleased with the design,” Scanlon said. “If you’re on Rantoul Street you’ll be able to walk through or alongside the building and over Pleasant Street to the train station without having to take one step up or one step down.”
The garage will also feature solar panels on the roof and parking for electric cars, Zipcars, motorcycles and bicycles.
Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or firstname.lastname@example.org.