So, let's get this straight:
The city of Gloucester turned away a $250,000 bid from a more-than-reputable affordable housing developer that wants to buy the old Maplewood School because city officials won't commit to extending $100,000 toward the anticipated environmental cleanup.
Yet, city officials have now revised the "request for proposals" for the property, with a price tag of $100,000.
That, on the surface, is at $50,000 less than the net gain would have been for the initial bid by Beverly-based Harborlight Community Partners — even with the $100,000 cleanup. While there may be reasons for the city to insist on an "as is" sale of the decrepit building, the fact is, Gloucester's handling of this deal just doesn't add up. And the city's community development crew has no one to blame but themselves if the blighted old school stays on the market for at least another eight years, as it has since Gloucester first put it on the block.
As recently as March, there were high hopes that this deal could finally get done and that Harborlight Partners could get moving on the city's hope for 12 units of senior housing.
To that end, Harborlight is an almost ideal fit. The Beverly-based nonprofit developer has already built a strong reputation on Cape Ann through its takeover and management of Rockport's Pigeon Cove Ledges complex. It has taken on the Community Land Trust of Cape Ann and its properties through a Feb. 13 merger deal that covers the trust's 51 Gloucester condominium units in four housing projects.
None of that, however, was apparently good enough for the city to work with the agency to seal a deal for the Maplewood School.
The bottom line for the city in dealing with a property like this should be to get the best deal it can for Gloucester and its taxpayers. By turning aside the Harborlight proposal, the city may well have cast aside a better deal than it is now even seeking.
So much for Real Estate 101.