Saturday, July 20, 2024

(Source: DCAM. Graphic: Marc Levy)

The state’s request for developers looking to remake East Cambridge’s hulking former courthouse is back online after the original was withdrawn and developers’ bids and deposits were returned last month. This time there is a single site tour and pre-bid meeting scheduled, for 10 a.m. April 25, and a deadline for new bids of 3 p.m. May 14.

The closing date on the purchase and sale agreement for the former Edward J. Sullivan Courthouse hasn’t changed: 11 a.m. July 1. And the time by which the jail and prisoners inside are to be relocated is also the same: exactly a year later, “with an outside relocation date of Dec. 31, 2013.” The Middlesex Sheriff’s Office jail and a community corrections program, which are on the top four floors of the 22-story tower, are the last uses in the building since its court functions were moved years ago to Medford and Woburn.

There’s also a gloomy buy-back clause, pegged to the same final date, “if seller shall be unable to convey the property or deliver possession thereof.” This was also in the original request for proposals, which was dated Nov. 2 and showed the original filing deadline of Feb. 6.

In fact, a quick page-by-page comparison of the new document — dated March 30 but seen online Friday — shows that except for adjusted dates and deadlines it seems identical to the original in all but three spots, and even then different only in legalistic and technical ways of interest mainly for accounting purposes and in the case, or prevention, of litigation. This is as the state’s Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance suggested.

“DCAM has determined that six of the eight proposals did not fully comply with the financial disclosure requirements of the RFP,” division Commissioner Carole Cornelison said in a statement last month explaining its return of the bids. The addition of text in each instance, though, suggests the state merely needed more information it hadn’t spelled out for developers in the first document.

As East Cambridge Planning Team member Chris Matthews said about the state returning the bids, “If you ask a question and get seven answers you don’t like, it’s your problem.”

Dozens of companies toured the 40-year-old building site in November and December. Ultimately eight submitted bids, with one rejected immediately for lack of needed financial information, a department worker explained. What remained were Amerimar, Boston Properties, HYM, Leggat McCall, Gutierrez Co., Trinity Financial and The Congress Group. (The state had already offered the property to other government agencies and to Cambridge itself for reconstruction, with all passing.)

One company was to be selected by June or July to start with the task of clearing asbestos — estimated by the state at between $10 million and $16 million, 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.

The city has no official say in the selection of a developer, which the state has said could happen as late as September. A neighborhood group has been meeting to see whether the community can play a larger role in crafting a second round of proposals, and city councillor Leland Cheung has a policy order on the council’s Monday agenda asking the city manager to ensure the state knows that:

Community members and stakeholders have recommended that developers strongly consider making residential housing, parking and green space a priority as they re-submit their development proposals to maintain the character of the neighborhood.