State rejects all developers bidding for courthouse
The state has rejected all developer bids for the former Edward J. Sullivan Courthouse.
“DCAM has determined that six of the eight proposals did not fully comply with the financial disclosure requirements of the RFP,” said Commissioner Carole Cornelison, of the state’s Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance, in a Friday statement. Although the division’s website refers to and lists seven, there were eight proposals submitted; one was rejected immediately because it was incomplete and never listed, according to the agency.
An RFP is a request for proposals, meaning a call for developers to submit proposals for a project.
“To obtain the best possible proposals for the Commonwealth, DCAM has rejected all [seven] proposals and will reissue the RFP, with new proposals due within two months,” Cornelison said. A delay of no more than 60 days is expected in choosing a winning proposal.
The companies bidding to take over the 22-story, 40-year-old building were whittled down from dozens. One company was to be selected by June or July to start with the task of clearing asbestos, according to Dana J. Harrell, acting deputy commissioner of real estate for the state’s Division of Capital Management. Under the plans shown last month by several of the companies, the tower was to be partially demolished and rebuilt to hold apartments, parking, retail and community uses (and, in one case, offices) instead of its one-time legal uses. Middlesex Superior Court moved to Woburn in 2008; Cambridge District Court moved to Medford the next year. It now houses only Middlesex Jail inmates on the top three or four floors.
All developers said last month that they had financing in place and would be able to start work quickly.
Instead, the state has rejected all bids and returned the $100,000 deposit given it by each company, said Chris Matthews, vice president of the East Cambridge Planning Team, who saw one of the rejection letters Thursday. The letters did not say why the state had done so.
“No explanation, nothing,” he said. “My hunch is that the problem lies with the state. If you ask a question and get seven answers you don’t like, it’s your problem.”
His guess Thursday had been that the state “didn’t understand how sick the building is” and, as a result, made a request for bids that came back lower than expected. “The building represents a much bigger risk than the the state has ever understood,” Matthews said.
The developers were all high-powered, extensively experienced firms, including Amerimar, Boston Properties, HYM, Leggat McCall, Gutierrez Co., Trinity Financial and The Congress Group. The state had already offered the property to other agencies and to Cambridge itself for reconstruction, with all passing. Remediation and removal of asbestos and any other hazardous material alone was estimated at costing between $10 million and $16 million, Harrell said in November.
While the rejection of the bids at first threatened to let the building continue to loom and decay over East Cambridge without a deadline for remediation and improvement, Matthews said late Thursday that at least the situation “is going to bring us together as a community. Everyone from the city manager to people from our neighborhood is going to agree the state’s messed up the process.”
State officials said they intended to select a developer without Cambridge getting an official say in the matter.
Messages were left Friday morning with Harrell and project manager Thatiana J. Gibson seeking comment on the developer bids and the state’s next step. Cornelison’s reply arrived via e-mail shortly after 2:30 p.m.
This post was updated March 23, 2012, to include Cornelison’s comments.