The Cape Ann YMCA’s submitted request to acquire the city’s former Fuller School property refers to the entire 13-acre site off Blackburn Circle, Mayor Carolyn Kirk said Saturday.
But the mayor says she would encourage a key city panel entrusted with considering such a deal to look at subdividing the property, perhaps selling parts of it to the Y, then keeping other portions of the land and buildings for the city to use for a public safety building and municipal offices.
“I would want the Land Disposition Committee to take a hard look at it,” Kirk said Saturday, referring to the little-known committee that falls under the city’s Community Development Department and stands as the first line of defense in fielding any requests to buy city property.
“It’s their call for any recommendation as to going forward,” the mayor said, “but I could certainly see them coming out with a recommendation that would almost be like a subdivision — perhaps agreeing to turn over a portion of the property but holding onto the piece where we could build a public safety building or utilize for offices and perhaps seek a commercial tenant.
“There are a lot of things in play,” said the mayor. “My goal right now is to try to bring in the city, a public safety plan, the YMCA and maybe a commercial tenant all through our RFP (request for proposals), and then to get everyone to the table.”
Beyond first getting a recommendation from the Land Disposition panel and a declaration from the City Council that all or parts of the Fuller property can be sold as surplus, the mayor and others within the administration must also advertise the property — whether in full or in subdivided form — through a formal request for proposals that essentially puts the property on the block.
Any RFP, however, can be geared toward specific types of development and with bidding restrictions. The city’s waterfront I-4, C-2 property along the heart of Rogers Street and now in the Gloucester Harbortown Cultural District, has failed to draw a single bidder for its RFP, which initially included conditions that any developer lease — not own — the property and that any developer document how the site could generate at least $70,000 in annual tax revenue for the city. The city has since backed off some of those provisions but has yet to find a taker.
The Cape Ann YMCA submitted its request to acquire the Fuller site last month but has talked about needing a new facility and perhaps relocating to Fuller since early last year.
A 2012 MassDevelopment plan, while not considering Fuller’s potential use as a revitalized school, explored four options for the site — including one that would transform Fuller into a new YMCA facility, among other uses. A new YMCA would take up 82,954 square feet of space and require some demolition, according to that proposal.
While the YMCA’s submission calls for acquisition of the entire site, a mixed-use option through a subdivided property would fit the call from city voters, who backed the mixed-use listing on a nonbinding referendum regarding Fuller’s future use in November.
And North Shore YMCA Chief Executive Officer John J. Meany sent out an email to Cape Ann YMCA members in advance of that vote, outlining the case for mixed use and the potential that choice would have for the YMCA to move in.
“Our new Y could be developed at the Fuller site, along with a new public safety building, a city hall annex and other commercial development,” Meany wrote. “There is plenty of room for all these uses.”
While the Cape Ann Y is due for a renovation at its current location on Middle Street, that is seen as a temporary solution to a more permanent move to a new location, Meany has indicated.
“It will certainly not be easy, but if our Y is to be successful in meeting our mission for Cape Ann, we must leave our current location and build where the Y can be successful,” Meany wrote.
Kirk, who touted a Fuller deal with the Cape Ann YMCA during her inauguration address last week, noted only that the Y had sought to acquire the Fuller property, but that the city still hoped to use portions of it for a new joint Police and Fire Department safety building, along with municipal offices and potential commercial space.
But she made it clear Saturday that would not viable if the city declared the entire Fuller site as surplus and turned it all over to the Y — or anyone else, given the state-mandated RFP requirements.
“We don’t want to be in a position where we were to sell it, and then we’re leasing space back to ourselves for a public safety building,” she said. “That wouldn’t seem to make sense.
“Right now, this (YMCA request) just starts the process and gets everybody to the table,” she said. “That’s where the idea of subdividing might make the most sense.”
Times Editor Ray Lamont can be reached at 978-675-2705 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org