City of Somerville
Massachusetts

Agenda Item
204755

Requesting the transfer of a City-owned parcel (82-D-1) in the North Prospect Block to the Redevelopment Authority.

Information

Department:Redevelopment AuthoritySponsors:
Category:Mayor's RequestPurposes:Property/Land Transaction

Attachments

  1. USQ City Parcel Assessor Map 82-D-1

Official Text

To the Honorable Board:

Pursuant to G.L. c. 40, sec. 15A, I respectfully request that this Board consider and approve the transfer of the City-owned parcel in the North Prospect Block ("D-2 Block") to the Redevelopment Authority for disposition in accordance with the Union Square Revitalization Plan and the Master Land Disposition Agreement ("MLDA") between the SRA and the Union Square Master Developer, Union Square Station Associates, LLC ("US2") .  The approximately 7475 s.f. parcel is located at the corner of Somerville Avenue and Prospect Street and is shown on the attached enlargement of Assessors' Map 82 as Parcel D-1.  The MLDA requires that the parcel be conveyed to US2 at fair market value as determined by an appraisal prior to closing. 

Accordingly, I respectfully request that this Board vote to transfer this parcel to the Redevelopment Authority so that the SRA may subsequently convey the entire D-2 Block to US2 in accordance with the terms of the MLDA and the approved Union Square Revitalization Plan.

Staff from the Law Department and OSPCD will be available to answer any questions you may have regarding this item.  Thank you for your consideration of this matter.

Respectfully submitted,

Joseph A. Curtatone
Mayor

Meeting History

Dec 14, 2017 7:00 PM Video City Council Regular Meeting
RESULT:REFERRED FOR RECOMMENDATION
Jan 16, 2018 6:00 PM  Finance Committee Committee Meeting
RESULT:KEPT IN COMMITTEE
May 22, 2018 6:00 PM Video Finance Committee Committee of the Whole

Mr. Glavin informed the committee that the Somerville Redevelopment Authority (“SRA”) currently controls the remainder of the site that is to be sold to US2 as part of the Land Disposition Agreement between US2 and the SRA for the D2 block. Tonight’s request involves a 7,475 sq. ft. parking lot that is owned by the City and needs to be conveyed to the SRA. Under the Master Land Dispositon Agreement, this parcel is included in the D2 block that the SRA is to convey to US2. The value of the parking lot will be appraised and US2 will pay that price in addition to the price that they will pay to the Redevelopment Authority for the remainder of the site that has an estimated value of $9.3 million. Mr. Glavin stated the funds from the sale of the land would go to the city. John Rattigan, from US2, distributed a fact sheet showing the overall US2 development and project implementation timeline.

The purchase price that US2 will pay for the D2 block also will include reimbursements to the City for expenses, including eminent domain costs and the remediation of environmental contamination on the site. There were questions about a biotech lab that will probably open in Q1 of 2021 in time for the Green Line opening. Committee members stated they had received comments from some residents who had just learned about this matter and raised a number of questions about the proposed transfer. Members stated that they were not prepared to vote on the item yet and mentioned the need for a public hearing. There were more conversations about putting an athletic field on the roof of the parking garage for D2, which US2 said would be problematic.

The next meeting on this matter will be in July.

RESULT:KEPT IN COMMITTEE
Jul 10, 2018 7:00 PM Video Finance Committee Committee of the Whole

Mr.Glavin told the committee that this is the last parcel to complete the D2 block and the transfer is a necessary item for US2 to close on its purchase of the property from the Redevelopment Authority, including the payment of the $5 million settlement to Prospect Iron. US2’s plan is to build the housing and lab simultaneously. Mr. Glavin said that there is a timing issue as far as the closing by December 31 and the need to transfer the property to the Redevelopment Authority with a lot at stake. There is the coordination of the T-stop and the building along with ADA accessibility, a different elevation on the T-stop, and integrated designs. The MBTA is anxious to complete the design discussion with elevation of the walkways. Chairman White asked for a critical path document.

The committee approved Alderman Rossetti’s motion to take this item up again at the Finance Committee of the Whole meeting on September 12th. Alderman Rosetti explained that the members of the Board of Aldermen had received communications from the Union Square Neighborhood Council asking the Board to hold off approving the transfer in order for the Council to begin negotiations with US2 over the community benefits agreement. Alderman Rosetti explained that she wanted to honor the request of the Council and to delay any vote on the transfer until at least September 12 in order to see the progress.

In response to Alderman Rosetti’s motion Alderman Niedergang and others asked the Administration and representatives from US2 whether that delay would have any impact. Alderman Ballantyne asked Mr. Glavin how much time it takes to close on the property. The closing process requires: the issuance of the permit by the City of Somerville, , evidence of the City's funding, a copy of executed construction contract, and the transfer of city owned parcels to the Somerville Redevelopment Authority. Once the pre-closing activities are completed it could take two weeks to close.

US2 and their attorney stated that in their view they would like the transfer approved as soon as possible because of the risk of losing the biotech developer. Chairman White asked them to explain the process of their relationship with the biotech developer. US2 stated that the biotech developer would actually pay for all of the development costs of the building, including engineering, planning and the actual construction. In their view, no one would commit to such expenses without the land transfer being approved, because, if it wasn’t approved, there would be no building. US2 expressed concern that they may lose the biotech tenant if this transfer vote was delay until September, but they also stated that would do their best to keep the tenant. Since this transfer is a condition for US2 to close, if this process is delayed too long, then US2 would not be able to coordinate the construction of the residential building with the construction of the T Stop and that could create problems with the T. US2 had stated that in their mind, some of the negotiating delay was due to the time that it has taken to pass the ordinance designating the Council as the group that would be involved in negotiating a community benefits agreement. In response, Alderman Davis stated that he believed that US2 was responsible for much of the delay as they could have easily made the change to the covenant to recognize the council, but that the delay was when they added an additional change about the flow of money due to the City to be reduced based on the community benefits agreement.

The Committee also asked US2 about the Massachusetts Environmental Act waiver that US2 was seeking. Alderman Niedergang asked about the waiver relating to the other parcels. US2 explained that they were seeking a waiver from having to submit an application for the entire site of 7 blocks as many of those parcels will not be development until many years in the future. Instead, they wish to proceed on a development by development permitting basis so that the only environmental review they would need to provide would be for the current D2 blocks that will be developed after closing. US2 believes they have a good application and the waiver should be approved.

RESULT:KEPT IN COMMITTEE
Sep 12, 2018 6:00 PM Video Finance Committee Committee of the Whole

Mr. Glavin talked about the MEPA waiver being denied and had some concerns. The original plan requires the completion of the construction of the residential building on the D2 site to coincide with the opening of the T stop. Some of the facilities needed for the T stop were to be located in the residential building. Because of the delay that will be caused by the need for US2 to comply with that MEPA obligations, the construction of the residential building will be delayed. Ms. McGettigan told the committee that the land transfer as set in the current land disposition agreement will not close by 12/31/18 without the MEPA waiver. Without the closing, the City will not receive the purchase price of the parcel from US2 and the payment by US2 of the eminent domain case settlement that the City is required to pay by the end of this year. Ms. McGettigan said that she will give a status update to the judge on September 28th. If the land disposition does not take place and the City has to pay the eminent domain settlement, Mr. Bean recommended funding this program out of free cash. Chairman White asked about the possibility of bonding to fund the settlement. The City could issue a Bond Anticipation Note (BAN) with a very small interest rate to pay the settlement. Then, when the land transfer takes place and the City receives the funds from US2 to pay the settlement, the notes could be paid. Questions were also asked about the project delay and how that might affect the GLX project. Ms. McGettigan stated that the city is moving ahead as planned. Chairman White scheduled a public hearing held during the Finance Committee of the Whole meeting, in the Aldermanic Chambers, for item #204755 and related items to be held on October 22, 2018.

RESULT:KEPT IN COMMITTEE
Oct 22, 2018 7:00 PM Video Finance Committee Committee of the Whole
RESULT:KEPT IN COMMITTEE
Dec 11, 2018 6:00 PM Video Finance Committee Committee of the Whole

Alderman Scott recused himself from this item.

Mr. Greg Karczewski, US2 president, read a statement that is attached to this item. The statement was regarding the Community Benefit Negotiations between US2 and the Union Square Neighborhood Council. In summary, the parties have met for 14 meetings, each of which has lasted for 90 minutes. . Ald. Rossetti asked Mr. Karczewski for a status on the MEPA process. US2 intends to submit the application in January 2019. After that, as part of the MEPA process, there is a period for public comments to which US2 must respond. Then the State reviews the application, comments and responses and decides whether additional responses are necessary and ultimately whether to issue a certificate that the project complies with MEPA. Ald. Mbah asked about location of parks in Union Square. Mr. Karczewski stated that US2 is negotiating with the Neighborhood Council about expanding a park on the D7 block and there will be a park in D1 block. He also talked about 90 units addressing the 3 different tiers of affordable housing. Members from the Neighborhood Council on the negotiation team appeared at the meeting to state they have been working with US2. The stated that in their view there is significant work ahead. The key areas for discussion are: housing, workforce development, outdoor civic space, sustainability and carbon neutrality. Their statement is attached to this item.

RESULT:KEPT IN COMMITTEE
Feb 11, 2019 6:00 PM Video Finance Committee Committee Meeting

Ms. Connors provided an update that US2 filed a MEPA application on 1/15/19. Comments are due 2/22 and that a draft certificate may be issued in March and the MEPA process would continue based on the comments. The Chair asked if US2 had made any announcements about their partner for the development of the D2 parcel and Mr. Galligani responded that he was not aware of any announcements. Councilor Ewen-Campen stated that at a recent meeting of the Somerville Redevelopment Authority, of which Councilor Ewen-Campen is a member, US2 had informed the SRA that US2 did have a partner but was not in a position to publicly announce the name of that partner.

RESULT:KEPT IN COMMITTEE
Sep 10, 2019 6:00 PM Video Finance Committee Committee of the Whole

Councilor Ewen-Campen noted that there is one part of the Parcel that is not part of this first phase and wondered when that might be addressed. Mr. Proakis shared that there is no specific timeline but it will be addressed as soon as possible. The YMCA relocation is also an issue that the administration is aware of and they are in discussions to find the best possible space, and multiple strategies are being pursued in search of the one that makes the most sense. Councilor Ballantyne asked if someone in OSPCD could put together a list of what is coming out of the community benefits agreement to prepare the Council for what each of the pieces is. Mr. Proakis suggested that because the City is not a party to the CBA, the Neighborhood and US2 provide the requested information. Chairman White asked if the Law Department could simply review the CBA and advise the Committee. Ms. McGettigan agreed with Mr. Proakis that the information should come from the Neighborhood Council and US2.

Councilor Ballantyne moved that a representative of the Neighborhood Council and US2 appear before the Finance Committee to present a checklist of items and a timeline in which they should be completed.

The motion was approved.

Mr. Galligani spoke to the City requesting this transfer now because the project is ready. The community has been collaborating for the past seven years and the pieces are now in place to move ahead. The tax revenue from this project will help pay for the public benefits, and will also help stabilize our commercial tax base.

Councilor Rossetti suggested waiting until after the neighborhood vote to take a vote on the item, as the support expressed tonight has not always been universal. Councilors Ewen-Campen, Neidergang and Mbah noted that there is no need to wait, as the Neighborhood Council and US2 had already completed the task of negotiating the CBA. US2 did what was asked of them. Chairman White stated that as Chair he had previously committed to not moving the Parcel transfer request for a vote until the CBA was negotiated. Because US2 did what he had requested, White stated that he would honor his commitment and vote to approve the transfer. Councilor Clingan agreed with this point, and although the agreement may not be perfect, it has been negotiated in good faith. Councilor Ballantyne also shared that we should get shovels in the ground and honor the agreement. Councilor Rossetti reiterated that she wants to hear the final vote from the neighborhood, as the Neighborhood Council was only a few individuals. Councilor Hirsch added that many people in Union Square remain unaware that this is happening. She is prepared to vote now even though this is imperfect, and we can learn from the process for the future.

Chairman White noted that this is a relatively unprecedented agreement and thanked everyone for their participation.

Councilor Rossetti moved that Counsel review the language in the community benefits agreement and advise the City Council of any amendments to enact.

The motion was approved.

RESULT:APPROVED. [8 TO 1]
AYES:William A. White Jr., Ben Ewen-Campen, Katjana Ballantyne, Jesse Clingan, Lance L. Davis, Mark Niedergang, Wilfred N. Mbah, Stephanie Hirsch
NAYS:Mary Jo Rossetti
ABSENT:Matthew McLaughlin, Jefferson Thomas ("J.T.") Scott
Sep 12, 2019 7:00 PM Video City Council Regular Meeting
RESULT:APPROVED. [UNANIMOUS]
AYES:Stephanie Hirsch, Wilfred N. Mbah, Mary Jo Rossetti, William A. White Jr., Matthew McLaughlin, Ben Ewen-Campen, Jesse Clingan, Mark Niedergang, Lance L. Davis, Katjana Ballantyne
ABSENT:Jefferson Thomas ("J.T.") Scott