Reuse Committee will seek proposals for old EHS

Mixed-use with commercial/residential will be considered

 

By James David Mitchell

 

Speculation as to the future of the old Everett High School building, which sits along Broadway, has been abuzz. That the 345,000 sq. ft. brick building can be everything from a “Hollywood Everett” sound stage to a CVS has been widely rumored. Thanks to the tax credits, movie stars from Adam Sandler to Kevin James have shot movies on the site over the past year.

But what is to become of the old high school will be determined by the Old High School Reuse Committee, an 11-person body (appointed by Mayor Carlo DeMaria, Jr.) consisting of elected officials, city employees, and one developer.

The Old High School Reuse Committee consists of Executive Director James Errickson of the Dept. of Planning and Development for the City of Everett; City Solicitor Colleen Mejia; Councilwoman Rosa DiFlorio; Aldermen Robert Van Campen and Mike Mangen; Mayor’s Chief of Staff Melissa Murphy; Everett Planning Board Member Leo Pizzano, Jr.; Deputy Director of Planning and Development Marzie Galazka; Purchasing Agent Lara Wehbe; City Engineer Julius Ofuire; and David Pretti, developer for Metro North Development.

In an interview with the Everett Advocate on Tuesday, Errickson stated that the Reuse Committee has tentatively scheduled a meeting for next Monday night to discuss and finalize the specifics for Requests For Proposals (RFP) for the development of the old high school.

The old Everett High School, which has sat vacant for over five years, was used in the past for numerous police and fire training exercises, local sporting events, a Boys’ & Girls’ Club on a limited basis, and a movie set for various Hollywood productions. But rental payments don’t cover the estimated $500,000 annual costs of maintaining the building which is why the committee is moving forward.

“There have been lots of discussions [about] senior living, a retail strip…a charter school, but more exploratory discussion is needed,” said Errickson.

In the past two years the city sent out two RFP’s seeking guidance from various developers and hoping to get some ideas as to what direction the city should go in the redevelopment of the old building. The city received four proposals from nonprofit developers, which were rejected by the Reuse Committee.

Frustrated, the committee sought out consultants on an informational-basis to help the committee provide a schematic for prospective use. One such company was World Tech Engineering, architectural and design consultants from Woburn.

“World Tech provided schematics primarily for a mixed-use concept, residential with retail on the bottom,” said Errickson.

The city also met with rehab consultants RDK Architects and Winn Development Companies of Boston, two major architectural firms that specialize in the rehabilitation of historic buildings. Winn (not to be confused with the hotel company Wynn of Steve Wynn casino fame) recently restored the historic Baker Square building in Dorchester and Whaler’s Place in New Bedford, earning two prestigious Paul E. Tsongas Awards for historic preservation.

The old EHS, according to Errickson, was constructed in three phases; the first, the original section, was built in 1921; and the second and third phases, beginning in the late 70s as enhanced school usage, consisted of the library, laboratory, and field house, consisting of approximately 345,000 sq. ft., including the basement space under one portion of the school.

In a 92-page 2012 Spring report/study by Tufts University’s Department of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning, various scenarios were published for the usage of the building, including an “active” senior living complex, luxury apartments, affordable housing, passive park and wellness center, and a new city hall. But despite the various proposals provided by the university study, the fact remains that as the old high school sits dormant, the need for immediate reuse of the building has “stymied commercial growth and community engagement in the heart of the city.” But as a redeveloped site, states the report, the old high school has the “ability to encourage current residents to reinvest in their city and attract new residents and businesses to the city.”

Errickson commented: “We will leave it open to the developer as to what they can feasibly do with the site—get a level of understanding with respect to a development scheme which will compliment the neighborhood and Everett Square.”

With the hope that RFP’s for development will go out in the immediate future, Errickson stated that the scheduled opening date for the submitted proposals could be around March 28, if one of the responders is deemed successful, which could give the developer a year to build. He added, “We’re going to be bringing this to the streets and we want to look at the RFP’s and get responses and go forth with an actual project.”

In a statement emailed to the Everett Advocate, Mayor Carlo DeMaria, Jr. wrote: “This building is an anchor for that entire neighborhood. While I am eager to find the right development for the property, I know that we must make certain that we are getting the best proposal. As a result of the research, community outreach and the market analysis we have done, the City has a better understanding of the kind of development we should aim for. I am eager to see the responses to the RFP and hear the comments of the re-use committee.”