Council in No Hurry to Sell Newcomb St. Property Abutting City Hall Lot

It has been vacant for years, but city councilors are in no hurry to let go of the white, wood-framed multi-story building at 20 Newcomb St., behind City Hall.

Councilor William J. Macek (pictured) urged his colleagues to take their time on a decision.

“I’m not sure that this property doesn’t have value to the city, not at this moment, but somewhere down the road,” Macek said. “I would hate to dispose of property that could have use.”

Councilor Joseph J. Bevilacqua said there is one word to describe the property’s value to the city: parking.

“There is a need for City Hall to expand its parking base,” Bevilacqua said, “but once you sell it, it’s gone.”

Purchasing Director Steven S. Bucuzzo told councilors that Mayor James J. Fiorentini wants the council to release the city’s hold on the building and two parcels behind it.

Bucuzzo said Fiorentini would like to seek proposals from developers for the half-acre site, with an emphasis on housing.

According to Bucuzzo, the mayor believes the City Hall parking crunch will be alleviated when the state motor vehicle Registry and District Court move out of the building.

Council Vice President Thomas J. Sullivan disagreed, saying there has been inadequate parking at City Hall for years, and it won’t be resolved when the registry and court move out.

After confirming that councilors were not required to declare the building surplus in order for the requests for proposals to be issued, Sullivan suggested the mayor test the waters and revisit the issue in six months.

Bucuzzo said the proposals will be clear that the city is not obligated to accept any of the proposals submitted.

If the mayor were to receive a proposal that he wanted to pursue, the council at that time would have to declare the building surplus as well as the two neighboring lots, Bucuzzo said.

The building, last used as a residential school and drug treatment program called Phoenix House, was last  assessed in 2016 at a value of $250,000.

Macek said the site could sell for much more. Bucuzzo agreed.

“The city doesn’t have to sell it for that,” he said. “It’s really worth whatever someone is willing to pay for it.”

Bucuzzo said the city could place restrictions on the development, such as maintaining a right of way through the City Hall parking lot and delaying the project until after the Registry and court move out of City Hall.

He predicted it would take a year or more to develop the site.

“The building is in very poor shape, so even if someone wants to re-use that structure, extensive renovations would have to take place before anyone would get approval to inhabit that space,” Bucuzzo said.

Councilors supported Macek’s suggestion of a six-week delay, during which they could review options for the parcels and take up the discussion again.