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July 19, 2013

Salem council OKs sale of Washington Street parcel

Opens door to redevelopment of city block

SALEM — City councilors voted last night to sell a small city-owned parcel at Washington and Dodge streets, opening the door to a redevelopment project supporters say would revitalize an underused block and extend Salem’s downtown.

The board voted 11-0 to abandon and sell a roughly half-acre parcel of 38 parking spaces along Washington Street last night. Earlier this spring, councilors voted to declare the lot surplus. The lot was put out to bid and Somerville-based developer RCG was the only entity to express interest.

RCG is looking to include the half-acre parcel in a redevelopment project at the block the company owns that is bordered by Washington Street, Dodge Street and Dodge Street Court. The proposed $45 million, five- to six-story building would have a mix of retail, commercial and residential units; possibilities include shops, restaurants, offices and a hotel.

RCG has pledged to make at least 38 of the project’s 278 parking spaces permanently available to the city. The public spaces will be surface-level, not inside the complex’s garage, said Mayor Kim Driscoll.

“In many aspects, we’re getting the best of both worlds,” Driscoll said — not only will the 38 spaces be available to the public, but the city won’t have to plow or maintain them.

“This couldn’t be more of a parking win,” she said. “... I’m very excited about what (this development) could mean for our community.”

RCG was the only developer to respond to the city’s legal advertisement to sell the land and abandon part of a roadway right-of-way, proposing $275,000 for the deal, the amount of a land appraisal.

Last night’s vote was the continuation of the council’s July 9 public hearing on the project.

Chestnut Street resident Elaine Gerdine read a statement on behalf of Historic Salem to councilors last night. The group supports redevelopment of the block, she said, as long as the building design “provides architectural excellence.”

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