CITY ENDS NEGOTIATIONS WITH TUFTS ON POWDER HOUSE SCHOOL REDEVELOPMENT

Tufts unable to meet timetable on redevelopment of former school; Process to Proceed to Consideration of First Alternate Bidder

SOMERVILLE - Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone announced that the
City of Somerville will re-open the process of finding a developer for
redevelopment of the Powder House Community School, due to Tufts University being
unable to meet the timetable terms on a land disposition agreement.

 

The
City and Tufts have been in an exclusive negotiating agreement period, during
which they have discussed specifics of a land disposition agreement. During
that time, Tufts has also held a series of community meetings on the design for
a proposed new administrative/academic building and open space on the site of
the current school. To develop the site, the land disposition agreement would
need to address a number of issues, including the timeline for breaking ground
on the development, set at three years in the City's original Request
for Proposals
(RFP). At a recent meeting with City officials, Tufts
indicated that they could not commit to a timeline and did not foresee
developing the property for at least 15 years.

 

Because this timeframe does not meet the terms set forth in
the RFP, which was developed to reflect the wishes of the community, the Mayor has
ended the exclusive negotiating agreement with Tufts. The City will retain the
university's $10,000 deposit, which will be marked for improvements in the
neighborhood around the school.

 

"Tufts
University has been a terrific partner for the City of Somerville in the past,
and will continue to be a great partner for us, especially in the realm of
education," said Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone. "Unfortunately, while Tufts was
successful at engaging the community in designing a building and a park, they
could not commit to a timetable that meets the terms of the agreement as well
as the community's desires, hopes and expectations for the site.  I look forward to continuing to partner with
this tremendous resource in our community, while finding the right partner to
help us achieve the community's vision for the Powder House School."

 

With the termination of the exclusive negotiating agreement
with Tufts, Mayor Curtatone will reconvene the Technical Advisory Committee
with the intention of revisiting the committee's recommendations and
determining next steps for redevelopment of the Powder House School. Two
alternate proposals by Davis
Square Partners
and Diamond
Sinacori
were also recommended alongside Tufts' proposal for final consideration
by the Mayor.

 

 

If the first alternate bidder, Davis Square Partners, is determined
to still be eligible, prepared and willing to move forward, the process to
negotiate the terms of their proposal will commence. Their proposed project,
which was also highly rated by the Advisory Committee, includes thirty to forty
units of family-sized housing, with significant publicly accessible open space.
If selected, a community design planning process will be held. Next week, a
community meeting originally planned to continue discussions of the Tufts
proposal will now instead offer the community an opportunity to discuss this
news as well as next steps. The meeting will be held on Wednesday, March 26, at
6:30 p.m., at the TAB Building, 169 Holland St.

 

In
August 2013, Mayor Curtatone accepted the recommendations
of the Powder House Community School Technical Advisory Committee
, which
ranked Tufts' proposal as the top recommendation for redevelopment of the
former school with more than 80 percent group favorability. That recommendation
was based upon Tufts' proposal to combine the Powder House School and Tufts
Administration Building into a larger site, and creating the largest contiguous
publicly accessible open space of the proposals submitted.

 

"We truly appreciate the professionalism and
collaboration shown by Mayor Curtatone, his team, the Technical Advisory
Committee, members of the Board of Aldermen and Somerville residents who
devoted extensive time and attention to reviewing our proposal," said Mary
Jeka, Tufts Senior Vice President for University Relations.  "Tufts remains committed to working
closely with the City of Somerville in the future."

 

The
15-member Technical Advisory Committee includes seven residents, one business
representative, three City staff members, at-large Aldermen Dennis Sullivan and
Jack Connolly, former School Committee member and current at-large Alderman
Mary Jo Rossetti, and former Ward 7 Alderman Robert Trane. The Mayor and City
officials convened the Technical Advisory Committee in May 2013 to review
responses to the City's RFP seeking partners to reuse and/or redevelop the
site.

 

The
RFP sought proposals that would meet the objectives of the neighborhood
developed through a two-year public process. Additional criteria included the
experience of the development team in developing the project and leading a
community design process, the long-term economic impact of the proposal, as
well as the price offered for the property. According to RFP criteria, the
pedestrian route from Broadway to Holland Street must be preserved, enhanced,
and maintained by the community partner. The vote of the Board of Aldermen to
surplus the land also requires that a minimum of 40 percent of the site must
remain public open space.