The future of Briscoe: Housing? Artists? Brewery?

File photoThe city has received four different bids from companies interested in projects at the former Briscoe Middle School in Beverly.

BEVERLY — As Mayor Mike Cahill decides what happens next with the former Briscoe Middle School, he will have plenty to consider.

The city last week received four offers to buy the historic building on Sohier Road, pitching future uses that range from housing to a community arts center to a "co-living facility."

Cahill said he is in the process of forming a team to evaluate the proposals and help him make a decision as to which offer to choose. He said he is not allowed to comment on the specifics of the proposals while they are under consideration, but added, "We're grateful for all four respondents and we're excited to dig into the details and evaluate them."

One thing is certain: The building will not be demolished. The city insisted that any proposal offer "a variety or unique mix of land uses that successfully preserves the building and open space."

Here's a look at each of the proposals and what they have to offer:


Bidder: Harborlight Community Partners, a nonprofit affordable housing organization based in Beverly, and Beacon Communities, a Boston-based development company.

Key element of proposal: 85 affordable apartments for seniors, with supportive health-and-wellness services on site.

Plan for auditorium: To be operated by North Shore Music Theatre.

Additional use: 8,000 square feet of artist work studios.

Outdoor spaces: 'Turf bowl' space in front of the building will be restored as a new public park with new seating, a historic marker, and opportunities for public art. The space will be deeded to the city. The field at the back of building will be preserved as open space for uses directed by the city.

Parking: Approximately 214 spaces.

Proposed purchase price: $600,000.

Estimated annual tax payments to city: $115,000 to $150,000.

Quote from proposal: "At BVLA (Briscoe Village for Living and the Arts), senior residents will live in beautiful apartments and be able to see a nurse, join a fitness class, or learn to use a computer all on the first floor of their building."


Bidder: Miranda's Hearth, a nonprofit led by Miranda Aisling, an artist and community organizer from Arlington.

Key elements of proposal: Re-purpose Briscoe as "BevArt: The Beverly Community Arts Center," which Miranda's Hearth said will be "the largest creative workspace on the North Shore and one of the largest in the Metro Boston area." The plan includes workspace for 150 to 200 "creative entrepreneurs;" commercial office space for local nonprofits and community organizers; educational programming for children, adults and seniors, including summer camps; and an incubator kitchen for food entrepreneurs and workforce development in the food industry.

Plan for auditorium: By year three, the seats will be removed to create a community hall that could be filled with tables, chairs or booths for events like an indoor farmers market, or left open for a gathering, dance or party of up to 800 people.

Outdoor spaces: Potential programs such as educational gardening, summer concert series, yoga on the lawn, snow sculptures, block parties, Beverly Folk Festival.

Additional use: Public artist Ted Clausen will create original pieces of public art over a four-year period. One proposal calls for using the columns that frame the front entrance of the building as the 'canvas' for texts that tell about daily life in the history of Briscoe as a school.

Parking: 100 parking spaces in existing lot along Sohier Road and former bus lot.

Proposed purchase price: $1. The proposal says the nominal fee is based on similar projects in former school buildings in Massachusetts that brought benefits to their communities.

Estimated annual tax payments to city: $34,560 payment in lieu of taxes.

Quote from proposal: "BevArt will be an incubator that supports artists as creative entrepreneurs and develops a pipeline between recent graduates and the dynamic small businesses that define downtown Beverly."


Bidder: WinnDevelopment, a Boston-based development company.

Key element of proposal: 79 mixed-income apartments for people 55 and older, including an adult day health center.

Plan for auditorium: It will be transferred to the YMCA of the North Shore at no cost to be used for its theater arts program that serves nearly 400 children. The second floor of the auditorium will be closed off, reducing seating to 800.

Additional use: The YMCA will also use the existing gym and locker room area, replacing the gym at the Cabot Street YMCA, which is being renovated into 24 affordable housing units.

Outdoor spaces: The 1.5-acre triangular park in front of the building will be improved and transferred to the city at no cost. The 2-acre ballfield at the back of the building will remain open space to be used by the YMCA or the city.

Parking: Two reconfigured parking areas with approximately 88 spaces located along Sohier Road. The current parking lot in the front of the building will be removed as part of the restoration of the triangular park.

Proposed purchase price: $2.1 million.

Estimated annual tax payments to city: $127,000.

Quote from proposal: "As the acute need for affordable housing grows throughout the Commonwealth, we see this as a tremendous opportunity to work in harmony with the City to provide long-term affordable housing for its elderly population." 


Bidder: 20Mission Co-Living, a San Francisco-based company that started in 2012 and converted an abandoned former hotel into 41 rental rooms.

Key elements of proposal: Convert classrooms into rental rooms for more than 200 full-time or short-term residents. Size of rooms will range from 150 to 300 square feet. Office space for local professionals providing accounting and legal services to entrepreneurs.

Plan for auditorium: Mix of public and private events, with private events primarily focused on entrepreneurship.

Additional uses: A brewery. A laundry that includes a cafe and a co-working space. Training for veterans and non-veterans in indoor farming. A photography and videography studio.

Outdoor spaces: An undetermined area will be converted into public and private gardens.

Parking: No significant changes to current plan.

Proposed purchase price: $4 million.

Estimated annual tax payments to city: Not specified in proposal.

Quote from proposal: "Rental prices will be attractive to recent graduates from the surrounding area looking to live with like minded people and build a successful business."

Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or