Officials Ready to Move on Pope John RFP; St. Theresa’s Project Could Break Ground

The City is preparing to put out an RFP for affordable senior/veterans housing at the former Pope John High School this month in a move to get the transformative project on upper Broadway into the hands of a developer and onto the design boards.

After a recent Zoom meeting on the matter, City officials got good input from residents and neighbors about what they would like to see there – giving them ample momentum to put out a Request for Proposals (RFP). After Pope John closed in 2018, the City moved earlier this year to purchase the 2-plus acre site to be transformed into housing targeted to seniors and veterans.

“Ultimately at the end of the month we will be putting out an RFP to put together proposal to the development community to design the building,” said City Planner Tony Sousa.

They expect to have RFPs back by late October.

The canvas for the property is wide open at the moment, but Sousa said it must be affordable housing and must have a good deal of open space included.

“We would allow for re-development of the existing school building and even the field house too,” he said. “We would contemplate a demolition and contemplate townhouse units on the side street for first time homebuyers. That is a similar model to St. Theresa’s…It could be low-income, first-time homebuyer properties. Other amenities would be open space and we would contemplate mixed-use for the right development. But we would really want open space to compliment Wehner Park that is under construction…With that density, we’re looking for proposals that keep in mind the character of the neighborhood but don’t take away from the neighborhood.”

He said they like things they have seen from developers like TND, Winn Development and the developer that created the Everett Co-Op (66 Main St.).

Sousa said it is exciting because any new development would inject a great deal of activity in that neighborhood, helping existing businesses and perhaps spawning new businesses.

“We are excited to get proposals,” he said. “Even in this climate, there is strength in the affordable housing market with state and federal tax credits. There’s definitely a demand for affordable housing. This is the mayor’s vision and Pope John was his idea…It’s not every day a City or Town in Massachusetts puts up its own money to buy a property and bid it for affordable housing.”

•St. Theresa’s Project Likely To Break Ground

The Neighborhood Developers (TND) is reportedly looking to break ground on its first affordable housing proposal in Everett – after many years of such developments in Chelsea and Revere.

City Planner Tony Sousa said despite COVID-19 slowdowns, the project has been moving forward and is just about ready for construction.

“It’s all been moving forward and they expect to break ground this fall,” he said.

The plan for St. Theresa’s, a former Catholic church on Broadway shut down several years ago (and whose parishioners staged one of the longest vigils to keep the church open in many years), is to have 77 units of senior affordable housing in a building above a service center operated by Mystic Valley Elder Services. The plan also calls for six, new deed-restricted homeownership units for families. The townhouses would be so-called “workforce housing”  and would be on the Gledhilll Avenue side.

The 77 units would be for those earning 60 percent of AMI. For seniors in a one- or two-person household, that would mean anywhere between $50,000 and $56,000 per year.

Sousa said the units would likely be determined with a lottery, as they expect there to be more demand than supply.

“There will be a lottery and that will be done by TND,” he said. “It’s anticipated that would take place at the end of the year or early 2021.”

He said he is excited that TND is doing their first project in Everett, and hopes there might be more.

“It’s important to emphasize the St. Theresa’s project is the first for TND here and they’ve been known for developments over many decades in Chelsea and have many projects already in Chelsea and Revere.”

Bringing TND to Everett is largely credited to a partnership between Sen. Sal DiDomenico and Mayor Carlo DeMaria. To help along the project, both have been able to secure state and local funding to help the project along.

Sousa said the mayor has authorized using $1.5 million in HOME funds and $467,000 in Community Development Block Grant money. The state has committed $500,000 to the project and the state Housing Choice program has awarded $250,000 to Everett for use there too. There are also a number of tax credits that can be applied to the project as well.

“You put all these combined together and it helps get these projects together,” he said. We hope to be successful on this and then do it at Pope John too.”

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