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.
— City of Somerville