The City Council Committee on Real Estate voted to authorize a Request For Proposals for the historic Central Police Station at 158 Bedford Street, but it will be the first time the City goes out to bid for the property without protections against demolition.
Committee Chairman Leo Pelletier opened the March 3, 2020, meeting saying, “As you know, there’s a strong push by me, and maybe some of my Council certainly, to get rid of that police station in a fast fashion. The fastest we can go the better.”
The renewed push to sell the property comes after at least two interested parties recently reached out to the City regarding the c. 1915 historic building, with at least one with plans to demolish it and construct a new structure.
“I know we got some opposition from the Preservation Society, but again you know, that place has been empty for 22 years.” Pelletier said. “We tried to dump it two, three times, and you go by there and nothing’s changed and it’s not going to change until we decide to have somebody that can do something with it or the city knocks it down. It just can’t stay that way.”
The Preservation Society submitted a letter and appeared at the meeting to request that the City give higher priority to proposals that included historic preservation and suggested the City conduct an environmental assessment to increase chances of redevelopment.
City Tax Title Attorney Matthew Thomas described the police station’s Request For Proposals (RFP) as similar to the last four issued by the City. However, Thomas suggested the City’s previous unsuccessful attempts to sell and redevelop the property were related to restrictions preventing buyers from demolishing the building and he recommended removing demolition protections from the RFP this time.
Two previous owners of the property were the subjects of separate criminal investigations in Florida, one for an alleged real estate scam, which resulted in the City reclaiming ownership of the property for back taxes.
“Maybe this is time, the last shot basically, as Councillor Pelletier said, to do the right thing and give someone an opportunity,” City Councillor Brad Kilby said. “Other than that, it can’t just sit there. There’s public safety hazards.”
A Self-Imposed Deadline
Thomas said he expected to complete the RFP by March 6, 2020, and the City will host site visits to the property on April 7 with the expectation of getting responses by April 24. He also said the City’s preferred use for the property was market-rate housing on the upper floors and commercial on bottom. The suggested bid price will be $81,550, but the City will allow lower bids with justification.
A purchase-and-sale agreement would have to be executed by June 12, 2020, with a June 2022 construction start date, and a June 2023 deadline for a certificate of occupancy.
“So I know it seems like a long period, but for a project like this in a strategic area like this, to have it done correctly and make sure that the I’s have been dotted and the T’s have been crossed, this is pretty much the quickest time frame that you can go,” Thomas said.
Interested parties will also have to conducts a Phase 1 HAZMAT environmental assessment in order to become a prospective purchaser, so they’re not in the line of liability from the contamination currently at the property.
“We have to bend a little bit, us, the City, the Mayor, the Councillors, and try to get this squared away,” Pelletier said. “If we don’t, then it’s going down and who’s going to pay? I mean, the taxpayers, and what’s going to be there after that? I don’t know. We’ll make a parking lot and get $45 a month for maybe 80 spaces.”
Center Police Station Proposal Review Team
- Mary Sahady, Fall River’s Custodian of Tax Possessions
- William Roth, Fall River’s City Planner
- Michael Dion, Community Development Agency Executive Director
- Leo Pelletier, City Council Committee on Real Estate Chairman
- To Be Announced, Another City Councillor