Over the past 4 years of national economic growth, the city of Holyoke has received several offers for the Lynch School property. None have been the right fit so far. We need to hold out for a better offer.
Lynch has not been “on the market” for ten years.
A common argument made for why the city must take “any offer it can get” for this property, is that it has been on the market for 10 years. That argument is not valid.
· 2008 was the beginning of the Great Recession. No one was buying property in 2008.
· Our country has had steady growth for 4 years. During that time, the city has had FOUR offers for this property.
o A charter school
o A marijuana dispensary/indoor mall
o A CVS and fast food restaurant – Frontier, a Florida developer (750,000 offered)
o A bank and strip mall – Colvest, a regional developer (250,000 offered)
· In the case of each of the previous three offers, the city (or the citizens) decided that the plan wasn’t quite right for the property, and the city decided not to go with the offer. The city never seriously considered the marijuana “indoor mall” idea or the charter school. In the case of the CVS and fast food restaurant, the deal was green-lighted by the Planning Board and Ordinance Committees and the property WAS encumbered to Frontier Developer. But after two years of being unable to settle on a site plan that had community support for the deal, the company pulled the offer. During those 2 years, the property was off the market.
· Now the Planning Board and Ordinance Committee are moving to support the Colvest deal because “it’s been ten years” and “we need to take whatever we can get.” We disagree that this truthfully paints the situation. Over the past 4 years of national economic growth, the city has received several offers for this property. None have been the right fit so far. We need to hold out for a better offer.
Lynch is not a “tear-down” or “unsafe.”
· Lynch operated as a school until 2008. It was not closed because of its state, which at the time, was not deemed a problem. It was closed due to under-enrollment of students (the city couldn’t justify keeping open 3 middle schools).
· Up until two years ago, the gymnasium and multiple rooms were still in constant use by the city through the Parks and Recreation Department, for sports games and storage.
· Lynch’s hallways, lights, grounds, and roof were all maintained up until two years ago.
· The asbestos tiles were partially abated while it was being used as a school. There remains asbestos and mold to be abated, and the fire curtain in the auditorium needs to be replaced (all auditorium fire curtains originally were made of asbestos and ALL schools nationally have been gradually replacing them).
The city DOES have the money to rehabilitate Lynch.
· According to information published by the City of Holyoke, the current plan to build two new middle schools is based on spending 60-68 million dollars per school over the next 3 years. The Massachusetts School Building Authority will cover 65% of this cost. This still leaves the City of Holyoke needing to temporarily raise property taxes or float a bond for 21-24 million dollars per school! This is comparable with the cost of a full renovation of the Lynch building for reuse as a school (to renovate the Lynch School for reuse as Central Office, the estimated cost is 18 million dollars).
· In 2017, the Central Office Taskforce considered Lynch as a site for Central Offices. They estimated that the cost of a renovation of 20,000 square feet of the Lynch School into the new HPS (and renovating the entire City Hall Annex at the same time) would cost between 17.6 and 32.5 million dollars. 18 million dollars of that cost would be for the Lynch School Renovation, with another 14 million to fully renovate the City Hall Annex. They thought it would take $250-350 per square foot to renovate Lynch School (or any other similar property, such as Metcalf or Lawrence).
· Using that metric, renovating the entire building (though based on what people have told us about maintenance, partial abatement, and the continued use of the gymnasium until two years ago, that may not be necessary), would cost approximately 20.7 to 29 million dollars, in the same range as what the city will pay to build a new school elsewhere.
Frontier's proposal dates from at least 2014: its pitch (or part of it) is still online at the Holyoke Redevelopment Authority's site.
Alex Morse only formally ended the Frontier bid in June 2017, so the property wasn't on the market for long after that.