SOMERVILLE – Eight bids for redevelopment of the Powder House Community School site are under review to determine which proposals meet objectives developed by the community and thus which developers will be interviewed by mid-June.
The City released a new Request for Proposals (RFP) for the site on Jan. 7, with an extensive in-person and online community engagement process as one of the requirements for those seeking to design and ultimately redevelop the former K-8 school in West Somerville. Bids were accepted until March 23 and are available for public review online at http://www.somervillema.gov/phcs. The 14-member Powder House Community School Technical Advisory Committee, whose membership includes residents, a local business owner, and City staff, along with Alderman At-Large Jack Connolly; Ward 7 Alderman Katjana Ballantyne; School Committee Member Carrie Normand, is now reviewing those bids. The bids include, in alphabetical order:
• Affirmative Investments, Inc.: 40 condominiums including 10 affordable units; 11,000 square feet of office, research and development, or studio space; 830 square feet for community space, gallery or café; 32,800 square foot public park; $100,000 cash offer to purchase plus 15 percent of proceeds from development above base costs plus fee set at closing, plus community benefits.
• Burkhard Corporation: 30 apartments, 12 1-bedroom and 18 2-bedroom, including affordable per inclusionary zoning; five work-live artist spaces; 1,800 square feet for restaurant or café; 4,000 square feet for civic use; 100-room Moxy brand hotel; 6,000 square feet office space; either a central plaza open space or green space along Broadway; $614,100 cash offer to purchase plus community benefits.
• ENS Partners: 40 apartments including affordable per inclusionary zoning; 46,000 square feet of commercial space; new 2,530 retail space for outdoor café on Broadway; $4 million cash offer to purchase plus community benefits.
• KSS Realty Partners, LLC.: 30 two- and three-story townhouses with public park; or 40 apartments with art, retail and community space and public park; Cash offers to purchase from $1.25 million to $1.75 million, depending on public amenity space, plus community benefits.
• Marka: 40 residential units including 7 affordable units: 12 designed for seniors with partner Collaborative Living Project; 8 live-work artist units and 20 loft-style unrestricted units; 13,300 square feet of commercial over 11 units: three retail units, two service-oriented units; one restaurant unit; five collaborative campus/maker units; one “artists hall” unit. $2.77 million cash offer to purchase plus community benefits.
• Diamond Sinacori, LLC: 35 home ownership units, with 12 one-bedroom units and 23 two-bedroom units, with five affordable units; community art studio; gallery exhibition space; coffee shop; 75% open space. $1.05 million cash offer to purchase plus community benefits.
• Somerville Makers and Artists, Inc. (Smart Space): Arts center with 42,000 square feet of studio space including shared, maker and film spaces; 20,000 square feet of collaborative office space; 3,000 square feet of community benefit space. $250,000 cash offer to purchase plus community benefits.
Trinity Powder House Limited Partnership: 35 condominiums with five affordable; eight live-work artists units with one affordable; 30,000 square foot facility for Artisan’s Asylum, currently in Union Square; 32,000 square foot public park. $2 million cash offer to purchase plus community benefits. The RFP requires that all proposed plans meet community objectives including that:
• at least 40 percent of the site be used as publicly accessible open space (as required by a vote by the Board of Aldermen);
• the pedestrian route linking Broadway and Holland Street must be preserved, enhanced, and maintained;
• the long-term economic impact of the proposal must be defined and beneficial to the community.
Those objectives—along with the combination of the purchase price, revenue and community benefits offered—will be used in evaluating responses. Also, the selected developer may propose to purchase or, lease the site, and to either demolish, reconstruct or rehabilitate the existing school building. The developer must also work with City staff on a series of public neighborhood meetings to develop collaborative solutions to the design of the project and the open space, and provide an interactive online platform that complements in-person meetings, with this engagement building upon the previous community process to inform the project and any proposed rezoning of the site.
In May 2013, the Mayor and City officials first convened the Technical Advisory Committee to review responses to the City’s initial RFP, which was released in 2013 and sought partners to reuse and/or redevelop the site. After the initial RFP, the Technical Advisory Committee initially ranked Tufts University as its top recommendation, which was ultimately selected by Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone, but after the university clarified that it did not foresee developing the site within the next 10 years, the City ended negotiations with Tufts in March 2014. Citing new information and concerns regarding the condition of the property and a broader range of community-supported uses for the redevelopment of the Powder House Community School site, the City then rejected the five remaining proposals, canceled the initial RFP, and notified developers of the intent to re-evaluate the scope of the project and issue a new RFP.