Community Real Estate Transportation

North Street Callahan Tunnel Vent Building Work to Begin in Mid-April 2013

Rehabilitation work is scheduled to start in mid-April at 201 North Street on the eight-story Vent Tunnel Building over the Callahan Tunnel. MassDOT and its contractor, GVW Inc., explained at a March 27, 2013 meeting that while the structure is sound, the bricks on the outside are literally falling off the building.

All four sides of the facade will be entirely replaced over a one-year period with new brick panels that will be bolted onto the structure. The new brick facade will look similar to the existing configuration as discussed in previous meetings.

The general schedule is to work on the individual four sides of the property for approximately 3 months each. Work will start on the back side in mid-April and is expected to finish completely by February 2014.

Construction Schedule, 7:30 am – 4:00 pm, Monday – Friday

  • Back side of building – April through June
  • Side facing North Street – July through September
  • Side facing playground – October through December
  • Side over tunnel entrance – December through February 2014

After the brick facade is replaced, the existing “High Voltage” tot lot playground will be restored, cleaned and re-opened to the public. In response to a resident request, the contractor will also add back a bench to the area. The fence in front of the vent tunnel building will not be replaced to improve the open-space aesthetics of the area.

Contractor GVW said the brick removal will be “controlled demolition.” Staging will be enclosed and the site will be consistently watered down to reduce dust exposure. A small electric hammer was shown at the meeting to explain that major construction equipment will not be used.

Three trees on the back side will be removed and replaced with mature trees after the reconstruction is completed. MassDOT tried to figure out how to work around the trees but said they would likely just damage them. Replacement trees will be roughly 10 inches around the trunk so it won’t take years for saplings to grow.

MassDOT warned that significant noise is likely during the work hours, 7:30 am – 4:00 pm, Monday – Friday. Five parking spots will be used during work hours for staging trucks on North Street, but will be available at night for resident parking. Dumpsters and trucks will be located on the site and secured at night. Workers are not receiving parking on site. MassDOT and the contractor’s management will park at the State-owned lot near the tunnel entrance by Cross Street.

An environmental consultant spoke at the meeting regarding the monitoring of PCBs and other possible exposures as the 1950’s facade is removed. Asbestos will be removed from some parts of the site in accordance with State regulations. There is a small amount of lead paint on the tunnel doors that will be removed. General dust exposure is expected to be limited by the staging wrap and the enclosed chute that will be used as the bricks are removed.

North Street is not expected to be closed to traffic other than during short periods when cranes are brought in and out. The sidewalk will be closed on that side of the street. The Fisherman’s Feast in late August is written into the contact and the construction is not expected to interfere with the feast.

A website is expected to be set up with project updates including 24/7 contractor phone numbers. MassDOT muncipal liasion, John Romano, can also be reached at with any issues.

This site is the first of six vent tunnel buildings that are scheduled for brick facade replacement, including one other in the North End near Fleet & North Streets. The North St. vent tunnel project’s estimated cost is $5.5 million.

4 Replies to “North Street Callahan Tunnel Vent Building Work to Begin in Mid-April 2013

  1. Out of curiosity… does this mean that “High Voltage” playground on North Street will also be restored? It’s in tough shape, although it was dedicated not so long ago to the former director of the North End Head Start, the organization that services the neighborhood’s low-income families (about 20 kids a year ages 3-5 are enrolled in the program).

    1. It depends on what you mean by “restored.” At the meeting, it was stated that the contract required them to put it back in its existing condition (it will be removed during construction). They said they would clean it, but it did not sound like any other changes or improvements would be made to it.

      1. Thank you, Matt, for the update on the “High Voltage” park next to the vent tunnel building on North Street. I read in the “North End Regional Review” (p. 8) the day after posting that “the state agency plans to replace the North End tot lot which was well used by the community schools and residents on a regular basis” so perhaps some improvements (particularly the rubber padding) are part of the package. Restoring it to its existing condition would not really be a good thing, as it has not been regularly maintained for nearly 3 years (I think it’s been shut that long!). Very true that it got a lot of use, not only from Head Start, but also from St. John’s School and the local daycare agencies.

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