Shrewsbury seeks proposals for purchase and development of Beal School property

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The Beal Early Childhood Center property
Photo/Melanie Petrucci

By Melanie Petrucci, Senior Community Reporter

Shrewsbury – The Beal RFP (Request for Proposals) Committee on Sept. 23 formally issued an RFP for the purchase and development of the current Beal Early Childhood Center located at 1 Maple Ave. The property was released for sale at the Aug. 8 Town Meeting.

Originally known as the Maj. Howard W. Beal High School, the school was built in 1922 and named in memory of the Shrewsbury resident who perished while serving as a U.S. Army surgeon in France during World War I. In 1914 it was reported that Queen Mary of England personally thanked Beal for aiding British soldiers during the war.

The school’s gymnasium was named “Nee Hall” to honor Shrewsbury resident Pvt. Michael Nee who also died in the war.

According to Selectman and Committee Chair Maurice DePalo, the building served as a high school until 1958 when the new Shrewsbury Junior/Senior High School opened on Oak Avenue. Since then, it served as an elementary school and then later as the Beal Early Childhood Center. At one point it was “mothballed” for several years.

DePalo shared that as of Sept. 26, roughly 20 prospective developers had expressed interest in the RFP.

Redevelopment of the property is closely related to the recently created Town Center District, when a series of relevant zoning articles were passed at Town Meeting.

“We want them to be in harmony and the intent is for the Beal Reuse Project to be a catalyst for restoring some vitality and get some excitement in the town center,” DePalo said. “Initially, we were talking about a project that had to be tax revenue producing, however, the prime consideration isn’t the price that they get for the property nor potential tax revenue but what will be in the best interest of the town.

“We have to step back and look at this thing holistically,” he added. “…If it’s revenue producing and it is going to contribute to the revitalization and the vibrancy and the aesthetic appeal to the town center that would be great. But it’s possible that it could be a non-profit use.”

According to the RFP, mixed-use concepts are encouraged and large retail or commercial single-story buildings are prohibited as well as gas stations, motor vehicle repair, drive-thru establishments of any type, large manufacturing/industrial buildings, storage facilities, adult and marijuana establishments of any type, multi-family garden type apartments, and townhouse structures.

“The World War I Monument is an important facet of this project,” he noted. “In the end, we decided that the monument should stay where it is.”

The successful bid will be based on the team of designers and architects’ ability to provide a high level of time commitment and expertise to the project and demonstrate the ability to finance the purchase and development of the property.

“We don’t have to take the highest bid. We want the best project for the town,” DePalo explained.

The proposals will be reviewed by the committee, town staff and consultants from the Horsley Witten Group. The final decision will be made by the Board of Selectmen.

New development can commence once the school has vacated the building.

Copies of the RFP may be accessed from the town website: https://shrewsburyma.gov/bids.aspx.  For further information, contact Kristen Las, Assistant Town Manager, at 508-841-8508 or klas@shrewsburyma.gov. RFPs need to be submitted no later than Jan. 7, 2021.

Maj. Howard W. Beal
File photo