Near the top of things Frank Picozzi wanted to do when he stepped into the role of mayor after reopening McDermott Pool and getting rid of the 42 blue bin planters lining Post Road in Apponaug, was …
Near the top of things Frank Picozzi wanted to do when he stepped into the role of mayor after reopening McDermott Pool and getting rid of the 42 blue bin planters lining Post Road in Apponaug, was to return vacant schools to the tax rolls.
Neither reopening the pool nor gaining state approval to rid Apponaug of the planters happened quickly. Selling off excess school property is even taking longer, but it’s about to happen.
After conducting an evaluation of what it would cost to remove asbestos and demolish John Wickes School, which by itself required a bidding process, the city is soliciting bids on the 10-acre property on Child Lane. Removal of hazardous materials and demotion of the school was projected to cost $430,900.
“The City’s intention is to sell the property for development in order to generate tax revenue for the City in addition to providing housing opportunities, and open space,” reads the request for proposals. It goes on to say, “The City will consider proposals to reuse the site for residential housing units commensurate with housing density of the surrounding neighborhood in accordance with the A-7 zone district.”
While the RFP even includes a possible subdivision of the site into 42 single family units, it notes some developers may consider bidding a higher price with the intention of building even more units than allowed by the current zone “by pursuing zoning relief through an overlay or variance.” The city offers no guarantees of such relief, saying developers “shall do so at their own risk.”
Wickes is one of four former school properties that have sat partially or entirely vacant for years. Former Aldrich Junior High School with its peaked façade, granite stairs and columned entry on Post Road opposite the WalMart is the most visible of the four. Former Mayor Scott Avedisian favored selling the school to a charter school specializing in the teaching of foreign languages, however, that plan met teacher union and council resistance. The deal never came before the council for a vote.
Mayor Picozzi said Tuesday he recently visited the building and that paint is flaking from the walls and ceiling and it is showing signs of deterioration. Nonetheless, Picozzi wants to save the structure. Of the four properties, he believes it could be the most difficult to sell.
Proposals for the use of the former Randall Holden School not far from Hoxsie Four Corners also encountered resistance. Late Mayor Joseph Solomon favored Westbay Community Action’s proposal to relocate most of its offices from Buttonwoods to the school. Many in the neighborhood objected contending it would introduce strangers and might involve evening and weekend operations.
Even though Westbay ended up relocating to former Citizens Bank offices on Jefferson Boulevard, the school did not sit empty. Soon after a burst hot water pipe forced St. Kevin School to close, the city administration made the school available to St. Kevin. They operated for a good portion of the academic year from the former Holden School. Holden went on to have yet another life when Mayor Solomon closed the temporary City Hall Annex at the former Greene School and relocated most offices to the renovated former Buttonwoods Community Center. Several departments including personnel and community development found space in the northeast wing of Holden.
Holden could be vacant again as soon as this summer when municipal offices are consolidated in the former Apponaug Mills saw tooth building that was acquired in a state auction by AAA Northeast. AAA planned to relocate its office on Centerville Road and build a call center in the building. The pandemic brought a change of plans and Mayor Picozzi seized on the offer to lease the space as the new home for the City Hall Annex.
The fourth property, the former school administration building on Warwick Avenue, has sat vacant ever since the School Committee consolidated secondary schools, closing Vets High and Aldrich and Gorton Junior Highs. Vets was repurposed as a middle school and the school administration moved into Gorton. Picozzi said that site would be the next to be advertised. He favors residential developments with either affordable housing or apartments for the property.
The city will conduct a walk through for the prospective bidders if the Wickes School on April 5. Bids are to be accompanied by a deposit of $100,000 “which represents 1.8% of the subject property value inclusive of land and buildings.”
Bids will be accepted until May 2 at 4 p.m.
The selected bidder’s deposit will be withheld and applied to the purchase price. All other deposits shall be returned.
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