The state Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) has approved the City’s Urban Renewal Plan (URP) for Everett Square, while at the same time the City has released a Request for Interest (RFI) to jump-start redevelopment of the key Bouvier Building in the Square.
The one requirement left for the URP is to clear state environmental regulators in the MEPA process, which was cleared with the Lower Broadway URP a few years back in what is usually a short process.
The idea of the URP is to exercise some control over blighted properties – which under the URP could be taken by eminent domain – and to give a jump-start to the redevelopment of the Square.
“My administration is working hard to attract new and retain existing businesses, encourage mixed-use development, improve circulation for pedestrians, vehicles, and public transit, enhance the visitor experience for business customers, and strengthen the quality of life for our residents,” said Mayor Carlo DeMaria. “Working with the BSC Group, we developed an urban renewal plan for Everett Square, last year we completed the Everett Square Master Plan.”
City Planner Tony Sousa said he expected the Everett Square URP to be much less controversial than the Lower Broadway one.
That overall plan stretches 20 years and includes a visioning plan for nearly every building and every lot within the Square’s boundaries. It is a road map for future development of the area, and in some ways a wish list as well.
An early action item is the RFI released this week for the Square and the Bouvier Building – which is still owned by the Bouvier family, who have been embroiled in a long court battle with the City over the conditions and ownership of the building. With the URP, the City can shop the building around as a blighted property to see if anyone is interested in buying it. Potentially, the City could take it by eminent domain and re-sell it under the URP, but Sousa said the preferred method is a private sale.
“We could step in and take properties by eminent domain, but the person to person private transaction is always more advantageous in terms of time,” said Sousa.
Mayor DeMaria said they are marketing the property in Real Estate Journals across New England and also in local circles as well.
“Today, we are actively marketing a Request for Interest to redevelop Everett Square,” he said. “The goal of the RFI is attract developers from across the Commonwealth to redevelop municipal and privately-owned, underutilized property in the heart of the Everett Square by capitalizing on the unique character of the square and its history.”
Sousa said proposals would come in later in the summer, with a cut-off in August, and owners of properties like the Bouvier Building could sell the building based on that interest, or they could partner with interested developers as well.
The RFI also presents an opportunity to land-pool properties and combine parcels under different owners to form larger parcels for development.
One caveat, Sousa and the mayor said, was the RFI states there is preference for developers willing to work with current uses and tenants in the buildings.
“Any developer would be preferred if their plan included retaining the barber shop or the law office,” he said.