LYNN — City and school officials have rejected both bids that came in for the redevelopment of the former Thurgood Marshall Middle School and instead will tear down the building, saying it’s become a frequent target for vandalism and a public safety hazard.
Mayor Thomas M. McGee announced the decision at Thursday night’s School Committee meeting, saying it was the opinion of the city’s law department to reject both bids. Their proposed closing dates on the Porter Street property were nowhere near the 60 days required by the Request for Proposals (RFP) issued for the property.
McGee, chairman of the School Committee, advised a tear-down because the city’s cost to maintain the property is excessive.
“It’s set on fire all the time,” said McGee. “The appropriate action is to take the building down.”
McGee said city officials are working toward what the next step would be for the property after demolition. Plans are for a market study for development ideas similar to the study that was conducted for the remainder of the Union Hospital site.
East Boston Community Development Corporation, Inc. (EBCDC) submitted a bid of $2.5 million and proposed closing on the property in July 2020. B’nai B’rith Housing bid $2 million and proposed closing on the property in March 2021. Both were proposing affordable housing on the site.
“The 60-day closing period was a material term of the Request for Proposals in that the city is expending significant monies to maintain the existing building and surrounding property,” wrote City Solicitor George Markopoulos in a correspondence to James Lamanna, assistant city solicitor and chairman of the City Council’s Request for Proposals Committee that was obtained by The Item.
“It was a specific intent of the city of Lynn to cease these ongoing maintenance costs by effectuating an expedited closing date. As neither submittal was responsive, it is the opinion of this office that the city of Lynn must reject both bids at this time.”
Markopoulos said it was entirely possible that other prospective bidders were deterred from submitting a bid because of the 60-day closing deadline required by the city.
Lamanna said the RFP Committee will meet April 23 to discuss the city solicitor’s opinion on the property. The estimated demolition cost of $2 million would be incurred by the city, but the funds are available from the original bond bill, which was to build the new Marshall and tear down the old one, he said.
City Council President Darren Cyr and Michael Donovan, the city’s Inspectional Services Department chief, determined that a tear down of the building would be best for neighbors in the winter when windows are typically shut. Demolition is likely in November or December after asbestos removal, Lamanna said.
“I fully concur with City Solicitor Markopoulos,” Lamanna said. “In addition to material changes to the RFP request, this is a public safety issue. Kids are breaking into school even with the first floor boarded up by Michael Donovan and ISD.
“We have had numerous issues of kids lighting fires inside (and) kids throwing chairs out windows even with the board-up. This building in my view is a potential death trap if not demolished immediately. In my opinion, the city cannot wait a year to sell this property.”
The asbestos issue and cost the developer would have incurred for demolition brought down the proposed purchase price by more than $1 million. Lamanna said he’s hopeful, with a new RFP issued after the building is torn down and asbestos is remediated, the city would receive multiple bids approaching $4 million to $5 million.