GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

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January 18, 2013

Council backs at I-4, C-2 proposal

The city’s second draft effort to put to productive use — this time, by lease or sale — the prime I-4, C-2 Rogers Street that’s been vacant for nearly half a century was not well received by the City Council’s Planning and Development Committee, and is going back to the drawing board.

The sale option is new. The first ill-fated request for proposals from a year ago offered only to lease the property, and failed to attract a single bidder.

Harbor Development Director Sarah Garcia said the revised draft request for proposals —of RFP — also encourages bidders by giving developers 180 days between the $10,000 payment for the rights to develop and closing.

Councilors, however, wondered Wednesday night whether a better approach would be do put the property through environmental permitting before offering it.

“Why don’t we (the city) do it (the permitting) out front?” asked Councilor Greg Verga, a real estate broker. “It’s worth more if it’s proved (to be a) clean (site).

“It’s a totally fair question,” Garcia responded. “If given in a permitted state, we’ll get more for it.”

At its first detailed vetting Wednesday night, councilors also questioned the proposed minimum sale price — $650,000 — which is less than half than the $1.5 million the city paid for the parcel, half with city taxpayers’ fund, half with state aid. Despite fronting on Rogers Street between the Building Center yard and the Gloucester House Restaurant, the site is landlocked, cut off from the harbor by a sliver of property that series as a busy lobster landing and pier and is controlled by the city’s Waterways Board.

“We’re really low-balling this thing,” said Councilor Joe Ciolino.

“There is no real estate professional on the (city’s) team that set the RFP price,” said Verga, who is a real estate broker. “We picked price out of the air.”

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