MarKa proposal would create 40 new homes including affordable, senior and live-work artist units, 

commercial space including collaborative maker units and ‘artists hall’

SOMERVILLE –A proposal to rehabilitate the former Powder House Community School into 40 new homes including affordable, senior and live-work artist units, and more than 13,000 square feet of commercial space including collaborative maker spaces and an artists’ hall has been recommended by the Powder House Community School Technical Advisory Committee. Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone will accept the Committee’s recommendation and present his decision to the Board of Aldermen.

The residential portion of MarKa LLC’s proposal includes 40 residential units of which seven are affordable units. The mix of units includes eight live-work artist units to be offered at below market rates, 12 units designed for seniors, and 20 loft-style unrestricted units. The commercial portion includes 13,300 square feet of commercial space over 11 units: three retail units, two service-oriented units; one restaurant unit; five collaborative campus/maker units and one ‘artists’ hall’ unit. The proposal includes partnerships with Parts and Crafts, sprout & co. affiliate STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math Academy), the Collaborative Living Project and the Somerville Bicycle Academy. MarKa made a $2.77 million cash offer, plus community benefits, to purchase the former K-8 school and site on Broadway between Teele Square and Davis Square.

The Powder House Community School Technical Advisory Committee reviewed eight proposals submitted this winter in response to a Request for Proposals (RFP) released on Jan. 7, 2015. Those proposals were from: Affirmative Investments, Inc; Burkhard Corporation; ENS Partners; KSS Realty Partners, LLC; MarKa; Diamond Sinacori, LLC; Somerville Makers and Artists, Inc. (Smart Space); and Trinity Powder House Limited Partnership. The 13-member Committee includes residents, a local business owner, and City staff, along with Alderman At-Large Jack Connolly; Ward 7 Alderman Katjana Ballantyne; and School Committee Member Carrie Normand.

Mayor Curtatone will accept the Technical Advisory Committee’s recommendation and enter into discussions with MarKa to pursue a land disposition agreement. Should an agreement not be reached, the Technical Advisory Committee has requested to reconvene and provide an updated recommendation. Once a final recommendation is submitted to the Board of Aldermen and approved, per the RFP’s requirements, the developer partner must 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.
The former Powder House Community School site includes an 87,599-square-foot parcel with an existing 80,857-square-foot building. The RFP required that all proposed plans meet community objectives including 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; and the long-term economic impact of the proposal must be defined and beneficial to the community. The developer could propose to purchase or lease the site, and to either demolish, reconstruct or rehabilitate the existing school building. Those objectives—along with the combination of the purchase price, revenue and community benefits offered—were used by the Technical Advisory Committee in evaluating responses.
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 the new RFP that was released in January.

For more information on the Powder House Community School project please contact OSPCD at 617-625-6600 ext. 2500.

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