City Closes Sale of Three Fairhaven Mills Sites

NEW BEDFORD — The city has closed the sale of three properties for $500,000 at the Fairhaven Mills site, and it and the developer anticipate that substantial progress will be made during the coming year.
The administration of Mayor Scott W. Lang concluded its deal with Dickinson Development Corp. of Quincy last month. On Tuesday, representatives of the city and developer said:
* Dickinson closed on the three city-owned Fairhaven Mills properties and met its Dec. 31 closing deadline with just days to spare.
* Dickinson completed demolition of the fire-damaged mill buildings on the city property, also meeting that commitment.
* Dickinson and the city continue to work to secure an anchor tenant for the site, which is planned to be two-thirds retail and one-third mixed use.
* Talks continue with abutting property owners about adding to the development site. Regardless of the outcome of negotiations, the development will move forward in 2009.
* Planning is under way for major public infrastructure improvements around the site, including the Interstate 195 interchange at Coggeshall Street. Much of it will be done with state funds.
* Gov. Deval Patrick’s designation of the Fairhaven Mills site and surrounding properties as a “growth area” will support the development process.
Developer Mark Dickinson said Tuesday his firm plans to buy at least one additional parcel from a private owner.
He said development will continue during 2009, noting, “We have invested a lot of money in the property, and the money is not giving us a return until we do something.”
Dickinson Development has assembled nine contiguous acres from Coggeshall Street north to Sawyer Street and Mitchell Street east to the Acushnet River.
Mayor Lang and Matthew A. Morrissey, executive director of the New Bedford Economic Development Council, said they remain optimistic, despite the obstacles created by a difficult economic environment.
Mayor Lang said, “The project is moving forward. The economy is difficult. I believe we are going to see some major activity over the next 12 months” there. “I am happy to report the property sales closed and we put $500,000 into the city treasury.” He said the properties “sold for 50 times the price they were to sell for when I took office.”
Determining the value of the Lang administration deal versus that negotiated during the previous administration could be complicated by the fact that each deal involved different developer commitments for demolition, site cleanup, road improvements and other infrastructure improvements.
Mayor Lang said it is a fair, “apples to apples” comparison of the $10,000 the city would have received versus $500,000 the city did receive.
The Fairhaven Mills site has been controversial because under the administration of Mayor Frederick M. Kalisz Jr. It was to be sold to Home Depot and its local representative, Whelan Associates LLC, for $10,000. Former City Solicitor George J. Leontire was a Whelan Associates partner and former campaign adviser to Mayor Kalisz. Whelan Associates and Mr. Leontire were to receive a $500,000 fee from Home Depot.
When Mayor Lang took office, he stopped the Home Depot deal, and that prompted criticism from some quarters that he had blocked viable development that would have added substantially to the city’s tax rolls and provided hundreds of jobs.
Later, an investigation of the deal by the state Office of the Inspector General reported “the RFP (request for proposals) was a sham with a preordained result.” Inspector General Gregory W. Sullivan found “overwhelming evidence that this procurement was a sham process designed to reward a faithful political ally of the (Kalisz) administration.”
Mr. Sullivan’s report went to state Attorney General Martha Coakley. She did not find grounds to proceed with criminal action. Attorney General Coakley turned the report over to the state Ethics Commission. The commission has been silent about the situation. By practice, the commission does not disclose information unless charges are brought, even if it has completed an investigation.
Contact Joe Cohen at jcohen@s-t.com
January 07, 2009 6:00 AM
Source URL: http://www.southcoasttoday.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20090107/NEWS/

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