A nonprofit group called the Gloucester Development Team will be the latest to take a shot at making something out of the old and long-closed Maplewood School.
The Gloucester Development Team, best known as the agency that manages the Central Grammar housing complex, put forward the only bid in Gloucester’s latest try at selling the more than 100-year-old schoolhouse.
The city restarted the bid process for the fifth time after the Beverly-based Harborlight Community Partners, also a nonprofit developer with a growing presence on Cape Ann, withdrew its bid in April.
This time, the city’s asking for elderly and veterans housing at the site. The nonprofit will pay $120,000 for the building if the city takes their bid The Development Team’s architect and developer Kirk Noyes says that, if that happens, his group won’t have a problem turning the school into an elderly housing complex.
“This will be an easy one,” Noyes said.
The Gloucester Development Team has handled nine properties in the area around city hall since the late 1970s. That was when Noyes, then 23, wanted to take a shot at renovating Central Grammar Apartments, the former Central Grammar School.
For $18 million total, he said, the nonprofit renovated the school into 89 units of elderly housing.
The non-profit’s bid packet states that it will purchase the property for $120,000. The city asked for $100,000 when it put it out to bid in late May. The nonprofit will also donate $5,000 to the Gloucester Housing Trust for each market-rate unit sold.
Development Team president Marc Sandler said the nonprofit wanted to give back to the city after it received a money from the Community Preservation Act to help restore the Central Grammar Apartments.
“We’d like to return that contribution to the city if that’s possible,” Sandler said.
The nonprofit plans to build 11 market-rate and one “affordable” one-bedroom condominiums in the Maplewood School, at 1,500 square feet per unit. The market rate units will be priced at $150,000 to $175,000 each, according to the agency’s bid.
The school sits in City Councilor Steve LeBlanc’s Ward 3., and he said Wednesday that the Development Team’s proposal looks like a home run for the neighborhood.
The school, he said, is an eyesore for neighbors.
“I hope we’ll actually get something done with it, it gets worse and worse every day,” LeBlanc said.
If the city awards Gloucester Development Team the bid, the bid packet states it will handle all hazardous material removal itself. The city made that a condition of the RFP, and that was one of the reasons Harborlight Community Partners withdrew its bid for the project in April.
Harborlight also couldn’t pull funding together in the time the city required. Noyes said Gloucester Development Team can, because unlike Harborlight, it’s not building subsidized housing.
That would take a lot of time, he said, and the Maplewood School won’t provide enough units to make it worthwhile.
Noyes said the environmental remediation costs won’t hit the $100,000 pegged by Harborlight and by Alpine builders. When he walked through it, Noyes said he felt the development team could do the remediation for around $25,000.
Noyes said he faced similar issues when his team converted the former Hovey School. If awarded, he said, this project would cost about $1.5 million, and take about a year.
This isn’t the first time the Gloucester Development Team put a bid in for the former schoolhouse. In 2007, the team won a $350,000 auction for the property, said Noyes. It planned on restoring the building along the lines of Central Grammar.
The city, however, didn’t take that bid. At the time, it required knocking the building down and replacing it with duplexes.
Noyes said his team filed that bid to make a point. The building, he said, is too valuable to tear down.
Gloucester built the Maplewood School in 1899 as one of many neighborhood elementary schools.
The city first tried to sell the schoolhouse later in 2003, putting it on the block for $700,000. The first bidder, Alpine Builders, tried to put 30 condominiums on the lot and faced strong objection from neighbors.
Since then, the city has cut the price every time the school went out for bids. The price dropped to $325,000, to $200,000 last year, and was then down to the $100,000 put out in the last RFP.
Noyes said the Gloucester Development Team put in for it again to preserve a valuable building. The group’s proposal runs along the same lines as the 2007 one.
He said he worried that, if Maplewood School sat vacant much longer, the city would tear it down, or it would deteriorate beyond restoration.
“We think it’s too valuable of an asset (to let that happen),” Noyes said.
Steven Fletcher can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3455, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.