Germaine Lawrence, Youth Villages, 18 ClaremontYouth Villages entrance at 18 Claremont, in 2018.

The second meeting to update the public about McLean's plans for the former Germaine Lawrence campus in the Heights drew an estimated 35 neighborhood residents, including members of the Sisters of St. Anne, to Park Avenue Congregational Church on Monday, Feb. 10.

Representatives of the two-century-old Belmont institution provided an overview of changes due, particularly residential. They include a program aiming to go live at the campus in mid to late March. 

Updating the public from McLean were Michele L. Gougeon, its executive vice president and chief operating officer; Phillip Levendusky, director of psychology; and Stephen W. Kidder, counsel.

The campus will be called the McLean Hospital Germaine Lawrence Campus, Adriana Bobinchock, senior director of public affairs, told YourArlington on Feb. 12. When that will occur is not yet known.

School Committee approves

The meeting updated information from last September. Since then, McLean representatives have received approval for its overall plans from the School Committee, required because the campus is an educational facility. Hospital reps do not see needing or using any Arlington public school resources for its students.

McLean has signed a five-year lease with Youth Villages to operate on the property, valued at $10.6 million and vacant since the nonprofit organization stopped providing residential services for adolescent girls there in 2018.

At the Monday meeting, Levendusky stressed all these programs have long histories of successful operation on McLean's Belmont campus and elsewhere, and trained staff that would be accompanying the programs. He said that nothing at the Heights campus is new here and that there will be no untrained new personnel. 

McLean, a subsidiary of Partners Healthcare, has residential neighborhoods in close proximity to the hospital space on their full campus.

Pathways Academy

The first program, which neighbors learned about at the meeting last September, is the Pathways Academy, a kindergarten-through-12th-grade school approved by the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. This will be situated in the Hirshberg Building, at 11 Hillside.

The academy is an existing day program, for an estimated maximum of 32 students. Classes usually have about 28 students who have autism spectrum disorders. They will be dropped off by van or small bus after 8 a.m., with staff bringing the students inside, attend school, and depart sometime close to 3 p.m. Many drop-off vans could raise neighborhood traffic concerns. 

The second is the 3East program, one using three buildings, housing about 15 girls. It is going into the Browning Building at 17 Hillside. Fifteen or so boys are expected to be in the Merck Building, at 3 Claremont.

These are residential programs, staffed day and night. The students have chosen to be there; placement is not a civil commitment or a ward-of-the-state situation -- unlike Youth Villages' Germaine Lawrence. If there is a history of aggression or acting out, such students would not be in the program, Levendusky suggested.

McLean reps said the program does not have a history of students fleeing the campus -- students have a pretty full daily workload, and that extends into evening hours with homework. The 3East program teaches dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) to develop skill sets to lead a healthier life.

Ages of most students

Most students are in the 16- to 18-year-old range, but can get to age 21 or 22 in some cases. Another six to eight students may be on-site in the “Partial Hospitalization” building, a day program -- a step-down program for students moving into practice of their skills in a day-program setting in the Addams Building at 6 Claremont.

The program runs six to eight weeks for a student; families play a role and are allowed to visit. Planners hop this program opens at the Heights campus in mid to late March. During the day, doctors and clinicians on staff will be present, and in the evening at least three paraprofessionals are to be in each building. Clinicians are on call, if needed.

The Tubman Building, at 14 Claremont, will house security. Aside from the staff, two additional full-time McLean-employed security personnel will be on staff at all times.

To allay concerns about parking, McLean has rented 35 spots at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, at the end of Hillside near Route 2, and will run a jitney to bring staff to and from those spots. It may seek to rent more spaces if it can.

Trash/dumpster pickup would likely remain where it was with Youth Villages, at the Hillside Road entrance.

Questions from the audience were numerous, including those about parking, Dumpster pickup, ages of students and visitation by parents.

Neighbors organized the meeting, including Nora Mann, Lauren Varian-Boyle and Grant Cook, with contacts in the town (Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine and Select Board member Joseph Curro Jr.), but the town played no official role other than helping the communications. Leah Waldron offered the church to host the meeting.


Neighbors of the Heights campus, at Claremont Avenue, were concerned in 2018 and '19 that the expensive real estate might go to developers. After the closing of Germaine Lawrence was announced July 30, 2018, an estimated 40 people attended an hourlong meeting Aug. 2 that year, expressing general concern about what would happen to the Youth Villages' property, which has helped girls since 1980.

Before Germaine Lawrence served girls, St. Anne's, an Episcopal boarding school, occupied the property beginning in 1928. Part of the property remains connected to St. Anne's. See more history >> 

Sept. 25, 2019: Germaine Lawrence property owner, McLean outline plans

July 30, 2018: Residents raise questions about changes at Germaine Lawrence

This news summary by neighborhood resident Grant Cook was published Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2020.