At the back of Boston Children’s Hospital, a wall of windows looks onto a 2.5-acre pit where the 11-story Hale Family Clinical Building will open in fall 2021. The tower is the centerpiece of a $1.25 billion expansion and renewal project that includes improvements to the Longwood Campus; a pedestrian bridge between the parking garage and main building; and a new Brookline clinic. It’s all taking shape under the leadership of Lisa Hogarty ’81, senior vice president of real estate planning and development at the hospital and a trustee at Colby-Sawyer who joined the board in 2016.
Listening to Hogarty narrate the project’s origin story as trucks remove load after load of dirt to prep the site, one has the feeling of standing backstage and peeking through the curtain at a production of immense proportions. It’s a comparison Hogarty can relate to — she was a Colby-Sawyer theater major and a Broadway stage manager before going into hospitality, healthcare and higher education. As a child in Hawaii, she spent a lot of time on her developer father’s construction sites watching him create something out of nothing. She’s known since a young age that space is malleable and multidimensional.
“These kinds of projects are just like huge Broadway shows,” Hogarty said. “But a lot of the work I do is translational because people aren’t always visual. We build cardboard cities that replicate the actual space so the clinical teams can actually be in the space to understand it and test everything. It’s like a full dress rehearsal. Then the architects tweak the design. It’s a huge cost saver because you get 98 percent of it right before the space is operational.”
On A Mission
Hogarty, who oversees an internal team of 160, views herself as an expediter who makes sure everyone from contractors and subcontractors to architects and engineers gets what they need to get the job done right.
“I try to hire the best people in the business. We have the teams that understand how complicated these buildings are,” Hogarty said. “I let them do their thing, but if there’s an issue, I try to take the drama and emotion out of the situation. Everybody is here to do this job, and the mission is so huge. Our patients are the sickest children in the world.”
For five years in a row, U.S. News and World Report has named Boston Children’s Hospital the top children’s hospital in the country. Nothing is left to chance when it comes to the patients’ care or environment.
“This facility can never go down,” Hogarty said. “If there’s a natural disaster or, God forbid, a terrorist attack, the police and the Army will protect this hospital because no other place can take these children. There’s so much resiliency and redundancy baked into all our building systems because this hospital absolutely must continue operations no matter what.”
That careful consideration is evident everywhere, including in the details of the rooftop garden that opened on Mother’s Day. A feat of engineering 18 months in the works, the garden displaced the building’s mechanical equipment and rests on a raised platform that can be maintained from underneath. Statues and sculptures dot the 8,000-square-foot space, one of five green spaces planned for the expansion and renewal project. Behind 12-foot-tall bulletproof glass panels that can withstand a Category 3 hurricane, the colorful butterfly-themed garden offers a respite for patients, their families and the staff who care for them. Benches have handles to help weak patients stand; nooks offer privacy; the mulch is allergen-free recycled rubber; and for three seasons a year, flowering plants decorate the landscape.
“I knew the garden was a success the day it opened. Families brought their babies from the NICU, and it was the first time those babies had been outside. It was awesome,” Hogarty said. “Then there was this little guy who put on his sunglasses and just started rolling down the hill for hours. This kid was so happy; he hadn’t been outside the whole time he’d been in the hospital.”
The hospital is the last place any of its patients want to be, but Hogarty doesn’t let anything stand in her way of trying to improve their experience. For the pedestrian bridge, which will ease the stress of parking at and entering the hospital, she had to contend with a 195-foot span, 95-foot sections of steel and Boston’s narrow streets.
“The trucks won’t be able to make the turns, so we’re going to manufacture the steel alongside the garage,” Hogarty said. “The steel will come in 20-foot sections; we’ll weld it together, and then some weekend this fall, we’ll close Longwood Avenue and put the steel trusses in place. It’s funny how people’s expectations tend to be so low. Don’t tell me we’ll never be able to do something. Yes, we will.”
It’s not often you get to create a space that impacts somebody’s health, but Hogarty does it every day.
“What I do is a privilege,” she said. “It’s awesome. I just love to help people."