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Posted on: November 30, 2017

Proposals Sought For Next Step In Downtown Development

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Proposals Sought For Next Step In Downtown Development
Bids sought on reviving 2 buildings (The Gardner News 11-30-2017)
By:  Andrew Mansfield

GARDNER  The Gardner Re­­development Authority has published a re­­quest for proposals from de­­velopers to buy Parker Street properties that are currently underused and require renovation.

“We want to see a more vibrant downtown, so this is one more step we can take to accomplish that,” said Trevor Beauregard, the executive director of the Redevelopment Authority and the director of the city’s Community De­­velop­ment & Planning De­­part­ment.

This summer, the Re­­development Authority, which is the economic development agency that works on behalf of the city, purchased the adjoining multistory buildings at 42-50 and 52 Parker St. with the idea of attracting investment, as the buildings are mostly vacant.

The agency was awarded $400,000 from the state’s Site Readiness Program to purchase the properties from Dean Marcus, who owned both for many years.
The request for proposals lists retail, professional or medical offices, and residential units as possible uses at the properties going forward.

“We’re just looking for a developer to come in and develop the properties so they’re utilized to 100 percent,” Beauregard said.

He stated the city has already received preliminary interest from several developers since the Redevel­opment Authority purchased the properties.

The city will host a site tour of the properties for prospective developers on Monday, Dec. 4, at 10 a.m., starting at the entrance of 42-50 Parker St. The Redevelopment Authority said attending the prebid walkthrough is “highly recommended” for potential buyers.

Proposals, which are to include a purchase offer and also plan details, are due by 2 p.m. on Feb. 6. From there, proposals will be reviewed and scored, the top candidates will be interviewed, and ultimately a winner will be selected.

The developer they choose will then enter into a negotiation for a purchase and sale agreement with the Redevelopment Authority. Beauregard indicated it could be springtime or early summer before that is finalized.

He also explained that the Redevelopment Authority’s primary goal is to determine the best use for the properties and that the project will not necessarily go to the highest bidder.

In addition to the two buildings, which must be purchased, developers will also have the option to purchase a portion of the property at 32 Parker St., the site of the old cinema which was torn down earlier this year. That property is next to 42-50 and 52 Parker St.

The old cinema was also an example of the Redevelopment Authority acquiring a property, although in that case the agency did so through eminent domain in 2015, and subsequently used grant funding to demolish the site.

According to Beauregard, the city still intends to build a municipal parking lot in the rear section of the former cinema property.

The Redevelopment Authority states in the request for proposals that it will work with developers on ensuring there is enough parking available to make their project successful.

The portion of the 32 Parker St. property that is optional for developers to buy is about 0.2 acres and one-quarter of the overall property. It is the front portion of the property, facing the street.

Developers can propose to buy that, too, in order to build there and add to the square footage of their project.

However, using that portion of the property for parking is not an option, the Redevelopment Authority states.

When the old cinema was being torn down, city officials stated that front part of the property could become a green space and park area to go along with the parking lot in the rear.

Regarding 42-50 and 52 Parker St., if a developer wants to rehabilitate those buildings, the onus will be on them to address the electrical, fire suppression and plumbing systems.

“It’s going to require a significant private investment to bring the buildings up to code,” Beauregard said.

The buildings are mostly empty. A few years ago, the business Temptations Boutique, which took up the first floor at 52 Parker St., moved to Leominster.
The only tenant currently in either building is Just Dance! Performing Arts Center, located at 48 Parker St. The dance center has operated there with success for years.

The request for proposals does not require that a developer retain the dance center as part of their plan, but does encourage them to do so.

The parcel at 42-50 Parker St. is listed as being 0.24 acres and the building containing 23,194 square feet including the basement, first floor and upper story.
The parcel at 52 Parker St. is listed as being 0.08 acres and the building containing 9,665 square feet including the basement, first floor, upper story, and also a canopy and porch.

Developers are not bound to rehabilitating the buildings; their plan could involve demolishing them and building new at those locations.

In their proposal, developers are asked to include their specific construction plans as well as the number of units to be on the properties and type of use.
Other details required from developers include financial analysis, design drawings, an implementation plan and timetable.

When selecting the winning proposal, the Redevelopment Authority and city will evaluate not just the purchase offer and project plan, but also the ownership.
“We prefer seeing somebody that’s going to have a local presence,” Beauregard said. “We don’t want to see someone that’s going to invest and walk away.”

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