Marlborough – The fate of the Old Central Fire Station at 91 Main St. was debated at the Operations and Oversight Committee meeting June 25.
Councilors considered whether to accept a bid of $850,000 submitted by WRT Management. This bid was received by the city June 5 and was the only one from its solicitation for offers. Committee members voted, 2-1, to accept the bid.
WRT proposes to develop the space and lease out most of the ground floor for use as a restaurant. It would lease out office space on the ground and second floors.
Details also emerged of how much work remains to be done on the building before it is finished. And councilors considered whether the city would be better served by retaining the building and leasing it out, or by selling it to WRT.
John Ghiloni, the city's facilities manager, told councilors the building needs $150,000 of work before it is finished. That would pay for new doors on the ground floor, a new cooling tower and other exterior finishing touches, Ghiloni said. The city has been approved to receive a grant of $125,000 to do the work, he added, but that would be lost if the building is sold.
WRT foresees spending $240,000 to finish the building, which would also include making it usable as a restaurant.
Councilors considered whether retaining the building and renting it out would be a better option. At-Large Councilor Steven Levy said the revenue stream from the building in property taxes, should it be sold, would be $32,000 per year.
Councilors considered whether the money the city has spent refurbishing the building would be recouped more quickly if it were rented out or sold. They decided, on the basis of roughlycalculated numbers, that the payback periods would be within a few years of each other.
Mayor Nancy Stevens said renting the building is an option that has become more attractive since the bid was received.
"Recently there has been a lot more interest once the news got out that the building is up for sale," Stevens said.
But she added that option had not yet been pursued.
"We have been focusing on the sale aspect and not the rental aspect of it," Stevens said.
Councilors sitting in on the meeting pressed for other details in assessing the bid.
"What is the city going to need for office space for the future?" Ward 4 Councilor Peter Juaire asked.
He suggested the building may be suitable for city offices instead of being sold.
Stevens said the city has not yet made a review of its needs for office space. She noted several departments had moved in City Hall, which has run out of space.
"In City Hall, we are tight for space," she said, "but we still have plenty of space available in the Walker Building."
Ward 6 Councilor Edward Clancy noted two stairways descend behind the fire station and that an easement would be necessary, or a redrawing of the lot lines, to ensure the city's use of those stairways remains unimpeded. One of the owners of WRT, Michael Staiti, agreed.
The committee voted to approve the sale, with two provisions. The developer is not allowed to request a grant from the city for the project, and the property would be defined by easement or demarcation to ensure public access to the stairways at the back of the lot. The measure passed, 2-1, with Ward 1 Councilor Robert Katz and Ward 2 Councilor Paul Ferro voting for it, and Levy voting against.
St. Mary's Church
Later that evening, at the City Council meeting, councilors voted on another major redevelopment project. The City Council unanimously voted to grant a special permit to the company redeveloping the site of St. Mary's Church, which would become a 36- unit condominium complex.
One of the partners in the development company, Alex Yarov, of St. Mary's of French Hill Redevelopment LLC, shook hands with supporters after the vote.
"It took almost two years," Yarov said.
The project still has to clear the hurdle of a site plan review by the city.
If the project is approved, Yarov said he hoped to begin construction in August.