Local Government and Politics, News

Lynn gets two bids of $2M-plus to redevelop former Marshall Middle School

LYNN — The city has received two bids of $2 million-plus for the redevelopment of the former Thurgood Marshall Middle School into affordable senior housing. One developer is proposing demolition, while the other is seeking to rehabilitate and reuse the building.

Although the two bids are below the School Committee’s desired sales price of $4 million, which has final say on the sale of the Porter Street property, the bids are on par or higher than what the two developers had proposed in November.

The City Council’s Request for Proposals (RFP) Committee voted to release another RFP on the 96-year-old former school, which shuttered in 2015, in January.

City officials were soliciting proposals from developers seeking to transform the property into a mix of 80 percent affordable and 20 percent market-rate 55-plus senior housing.

But the two respondents, B’nai B’rith Housing and East Boston Community Development Corporation, Inc. (EDCDC), submitted proposals for developments that would only contain affordable senior housing units.

The public bid opening was held last Friday, according to James Lamanna, the city’s attorney.

B’nai B’rith Housing, a Brighton nonprofit that builds affordable homes for seniors in Greater Boston, has proposed a purchase price of $2 million.

The organization is seeking to “demolish the existing structures and create an 82-unit affordable housing community that meets the needs of both low and moderate income seniors and older adults,” according to a correspondence from Susan Gittelman, B’nai B’rith executive director, included in the proposal.

Sixty units would be affordable to moderate income seniors and 22 units would be reserved for low-income and older adults. The development would include resident service coordination for the residents, according to Gittelman.

Gittelman wrote their proposal would complement work B’nai B’rith has started in nearby Swampscott, where the former Machon Elementary School is being redeveloped into 38 units of affordable senior housing. Unlike demolition proposed in Lynn, the project in Swampscott includes improving and reusing the 1920 school building and demolishing and replacing the 1963 addition with a new addition.

“This development represents a unique opportunity to create much-needed affordable rental housing for seniors and older adults in Lynn,” Gittelman wrote.

In contrast, EBCDC, which has submitted a bid of $2.5 million, seeks to “preserve the historic character” of the school, rehab and reuse of the building. The nonprofit dedicated to enhancing the lives of low-income residents of East Boston, believes that preservation would stabilize the neighborhood, according to a correspondence from Albert Caldarelli, EBCDC president.

The group is proposing 98 units of affordable senior housing and “significant” senior services. There would be 86 one-bedroom units and 12 two-bedroom units, according to Caldarelli.

The two developers also responded to the city’s Request for Information (RFI) issued last year, which was meant to give officials a sense of what developers wanted to see in an RFP.

In that response, B’nai B’rith proposed a mix of market-rate and affordable units with a purchase price of $500,000. In February 2018, the City Council rejected a bid from B’nai B’rith, which was for a majority of market-rate apartments, the preference of the city’s original RFP.

In November, EBCDC proposed affordable senior housing, with some workforce housing units, and a purchase price between $2 million and $4 million depending on how much of a financial assistance package the nonprofit would have qualified for. In that plan, the group was seeking to demolish only the school’s addition, but it was unclear in the correspondence whether that intention remained the same.

A potential developer planning to raze the building would incur the $2 million cost of demolition. But a developer seeking to rehab the building would have to pay for a retrofit, which is projected as a significant cost because of needed asbestos removal, according to Lamanna.

Affordable senior housing has been identified as a priority in the city, as seniors tend to be on fixed incomes and there are waiting lists for existing senior housing complexes in Lynn, according to the RFP.

The desire for senior housing at the site and a preference for one-bedroom apartments is meant to avoid furthering the strain on the existing overcrowding at the Lynn Public Schools, according to city officials.

The School Committee has final authority on the sale of the property. The panel granted the city a six-month extension on its sale in November.

Proceeds from the sale would go toward long-term capital repairs in the city. The mayor would determine whether the funds would go to the school department for capital needs, such as a future school or school repairs, according to city officials.

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