SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

May 4, 2013

City selling piece of downtown

Salem: Half-acre parcel appears earmarked for developer

BY TOM DALTON
STAFF WRITER

---- — SALEM — For sale: prime downtown real estate.

It’s not every day the city decides to sell off almost a half-acre of land in the downtown, but that’s exactly what Salem is doing. This week, the city advertised the sale of a section of a downtown parking lot known as “Parcel B” in Riley Plaza East.

The land, which consists of 38 parking spaces, runs along Washington Street, a major entrance corridor, and is bordered by Dodge Street.

However, the sale of 20,000 square feet of asphalt is not quite what it seems.

In fact, it may be little more than a formality since it appears earmarked for developer RCG, which in January announced a $45 million development proposal next to this site that will include retail, residences and maybe even a hotel.

The city’s Planning Department suggested incorporating this strip of land into the project to give it an “urban feel” by moving buildings closer to the sidewalk. In exchange, the developer must replace the lost parking with public spaces inside the project.

The City Council declared the land surplus in March as a first step toward putting it up for sale. Before it can be sold, however, any proposal recommended by the city must go back to the council for approval, which requires a two-thirds vote of the 11-member board. Before the vote, the council will hold a public hearing.

This is not the first time the city has sold property to spur or improve a development. In the recent downtown boom, the city, or Salem Redevelopment Authority, sold the old police station on Central Street, which was turned into condos, and the old Salem Jail, which is now residences and a restaurant.

It also sold the former FlynnTan leather factory property on Boston Street, which still has not been developed. The city plans to sell the Universal Steel lot on Bridge Street when it is no longer needed for MBTA parking during upcoming garage construction.

The Peabody Essex Museum’s expansion a decade ago was made possible when the City Council voted to give up part of a downtown street.

The proposals for Parcel B — if there are more than one — must include a number of details, including price, the development plan, anticipated tax revenue, architectural design and project financing.

Proposals are due by June 3. A pre-proposal conference is set for May 16 to answer questions from potential developers.

Tom Dalton can be reached at tdalton@salemnews.com.