Miguel Gomez-Ibanez, President of North Bennet Street School, and Dianne Royle, President of the North End Music and Performing Arts Center (NEMPAC), presented at the June 2017 North End / Waterfront Neighborhood Council (NEWNC) meeting regarding potential competing bids to acquire the Sumner Tunnel Administration Building at 128 North Street.
The Sumner Tunnel Administration Building, owned by State transportation agency, Mass DOT, contains over 6500 total square feet on 4 floors. The building is just behind North Street Park and bounded by the exit of the Sumner Tunnel, Cross Street and North Street. This historic structure is one of few examples of the Georgian Revival style in the North End and is located near the North End Park of the Rose Kennedy Greenway. It is most recognizable by its golden dome.
At the meeting, both Gomez-Ibanez and Royle outlined their needs for the building as an addition to their organizations. Neither organization, it appears, wants to conflict with the other, however. Ibanez said, “We obviously want the building, but we also respect NEMPAC and don’t want to ever be in conflict with another North End community service, non-profit.” Royle said, “It’s unfortunate that we will be in competition with the North Bennet Street School.”
Here are each of the organizations’ reasoning for wanting the building:
North Bennet Street School:
Ibanez noted that the building is in need of renovations and the North Bennet Street School would be able to do these renovations themselves. They could remove the fire stairs, extra toilets, and they would not need an elevator. He said, “If another public use were to take that building on and renovate it, they would have all the access issues, all the improvement issues, they would need the two stairs. It would be really efficient for us to have it.” The cost of renovating would be expensive, Ibanez also noted. He mentions that even though NEMPAC is looking for a larger space, this building may even be too small for their needs.
Ibanez said that the North Bennet Street will bid on the building, but maybe a deal could be worked out where some of the space is for NEMPAC. (04:00)
Living out of the Paul Revere Mall, NEMPAC has 4 rooms in their current building with very little space. Royle stated that it is a growing music school with hundreds of students. However, the organization is having issues accommodating students’ and parents’ needs because of the building and is losing students due to that. (05:45) Parents do not have a waiting room at NEMPAC’s current location, which can be inconvenient in the winter months. The office, in the back room, is too small. The bathroom doubles as a storage closet.
Royle said that they will make this into a two phase project if they have to. Phase one being the bid and phase two being the renovations. “We need 6000 square feet to make it work for our organization.” Royle continued, “This is not the first building we have looked at. We have been searching for space for two years now.”
Regarding the imminent bidding war, Ibanez said again, “I don’t want North Bennet Street School to be in an adversary position with this neighborhood, or NEMPAC, or anything. If we have more resources, which we do at the moment, and we can get the building and get them space, then thats what we’ll do. We’ll see how it goes.”