At its meeting on Monday,
November 25, Mayor Carlo DeMaria appeared before Council to request approval to
borrow $10.5 million for the purchase of the Pope John XXIII High School site
on upper Broadway.
The mayor originally came before Council in October, at which time he laid out his vision to purchase the property and convert it into affordable housing for senior citizens and veterans.
An initial appraisal priced the 2.5-acre property at 888 Broadway at $12 million, but the City was able to negotiate it down based on the cost of asbestos removal and other factors.
The old school building would likely be razed to accommodate a new construction containing at least 200 housing units, 70 percent of which would be rented to Everett residents. Mayor DeMaria said that the acreage could also include ground-level retail, outdoor dining and public open spaces
.Councilor Michael McLaughlin expressed concern about borrowing money for the sale, saying he was under the impression the property would be purchased outright.
“Let’s look at other streams of revenue and see if we can pay for this and not put this on the taxpayers for the next 10 or 20 years,” he said.
The mayor said that, while free cash could be used to purchase the property up front, he would prefer to bond it out for 20 or 30 years and then look into different sources to pay off the debt. This could include funds from the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grant Program, the North Suburban Consortium’s HOME Program, and tax revenue generated by the property itself. The City would also appeal to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission’s Community Mitigation Fund, on the grounds that the presence of Encore Boston has driven up the cost of rent.
“I’m looking to make it a net zero cost to the City,” he said.
“I support the [purchase] for the purpose of senior and veterans housing that is so desperately needed,” said Councilor Wayne Matewsky. “This is a positive move. It’s a big piece of property.”
The councilor said that he would prefer to give priority to long-term Everett residents, rather than those who had moved to town within months of moving in. Mayor DeMaria said he would look into their options for that.
Council elected to postpone the vote until its next regularly scheduled meeting on December 10. Once Council approves borrowing the needed funds, the City would own the property and would then seek developers through the RFP process. The City would require that the designated developer complete the property transformation within a specific time frame in order to get the units occupied as soon as possible.