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128 North Street property up for bid.

North End residents packed into the Nazzaro Community Center on Wednesday night for a meeting hosted by MassDOT to discuss the current Invitation to Bid on property at 128 North Street – the historic Tunnel Administration Building.

The significant turnout for this meeting was no coincidence; in fact, the majority of attendees came out to voice their support for the North End Music and Performing Arts Center’s plan to pursue this bid. [Learn more about NEMPAC’s case for support.]

The bid update for 128 North Street packed the Nazzaro Center (NEWF Image)

For over two years, the arts and music nonprofit has been actively seeking larger space in the North End to accommodate the growing number students they serve. Their plan for this building would allow the organization to expand current offerings and increase arts opportunities for residents of all walks of life. 

At the meeting, representatives from MassDOT gave a brief presentation of the 6,500 square foot property and an overview of the disposition. They explained that any interested party may submit a proposal, but due to statute/policy, they must award the property to the highest bidder. Officials have set the minimum bid at $2 million.

Attendees pushed back on MassDOT officials to consider giving NEMPAC a fair chance to win the bid by recalling the RFP and creating a new clause that gives influence to proposals that add community value.

State Representative Aaron Michlewitz stated, “I am extremely disappointed that community input was not part of the 128 North St. RFP.” He added, “Many of the promises made during the Big Dig never came to fruition, including a community center on Parcel 6, the Museum Project on Parcel 12, and the decking of those ramps and parcels. It is my hope that MassDOT will rectify the situation and I hope this building will have a significant positive community impact.”

Parent speaks about NEMPAC at community meeting.

Following the presentation, parents, children, educators, and others from the community gave thoughtful remarks on the value of having NEMPAC in the neighborhood and why the property needs to include a community space.

This was NEMPAC’s night to make their case to State officials, emphasizing that community needs should trump financial restrictions by relaxing the highest bidder rules and the $2 million minimum bid.

The abutting North Bennet Street School, also a non-profit, is expected to bid and is also working on a joint plan where NBSS could purchase the building and lease space to NEMPAC. However, such a plan could similarly require some modifications in the current financial restrictions. It is not clear if other developers will submit bids under the current RFP. To date, there has not been significant developer interest in such a small space at only 6,500 square feet.

In the coming weeks, MassDot will debrief the meeting and announce next steps. As it currently stands, all bids are due on December 18, 2017. The winning bidder will be determined in January 2018. Along the way, however, the RFP allows State officials to rejigger or terminate the current process.

NEMPAC is asking residents and supporters to email MassDot at: James.A.kersten@dot.state.ma.us and request the State agency to consider including a “community benefit” component to the RFP process rather than the current “highest bidder” strategy.

View the MassDOT presentation below:


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10 COMMENTS

  1. What a wonderful opportunity to give an Italian community a place for Arts for our children our seniors etc. it is about time the State and City “throw us a bone” for all the broken promises and all we endured.

  2. The community meeting was held on December 6th, 2017 with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation with regards to the sale or lease of 128 North Street in Boston. I spoke where I came from Peabody to attend this meeting. In my comments, I spoke of Richard Florida who has written two books on the creative economy. Everyone who attended is part of that. In my remarks, I also mentioned that a performance center drives these economies. I also mentioned that I have seen this, both as a performer and an attendee at multiple events. Gloucester, at the Shiang Liu Performance Center, attractiving world wide performers. Cafes, restaurants, and other businesses have sprung up EVERY month. Stoneham Theater, same thing. In Beverly, the North Shore Music Theater, Lycum and Cabot Theaters, in Newburyport at the Firehouse Performance Center, In Salem in the downtown area. In Lynn, at the Lynn City Hall Auditorium, and Peabody, were I live, at the Wiggins Auditorium, and now, under construction, the Black Box Theater.
    I KNOW it works! It was brought out that the building was once city owned property. In addition, it is only one percent of your operating budget. Being said, could the building be leased out for a dollar a year for the next 99 years, with stipulations of use. It would make better sense and good faith to the community who could use it. We understand that the building would need to be updated to meet code and improvements to meet accessibility. In addition, these improvements would be under the stipulation of the historical society. I appreciate your time.

    • Thank you, Thomas for your comments and I am in total agreement with you. Excellent points you made at the meeting and we appreciate your support.

  3. So glad that the meeting in support of NEMPAC was well-attended.   The value of community space cannot be overstated; not to mention it would be a chance for MassDot to make good on some old promises.   In these days, music is a universal language that should be taught as early as possible!   Dr. LJ

  4. This is a unique opportunity to serve the community and surrounding neighborhoods with a conveniently and much-needed space. NEMPAC has proven itself to be a resourceful and well-run organization, and the space would allow it to flourish even more. MassDOT should see past the immediate $$ and think bigger (and more creatively) for this particular building. I think the current bidding process should be restarted with community benefit incorporated as a factor. The building has been there this long; a few more weeks to redirect/reimagine the process is worth the investment.

  5. Thank you NEMPAC supporters who attended the Public Meeting to express their opinions and the value of a larger performing arts center in the North End. We were so proud to hear your positive comments about NEMPAC and the immediate need for more space. We will continue our fight for a competitive opportunity to bid on this building. Again, thank you!!

  6. The North End public and private school population is rapidly growing as more families are raising children in the city.

    For example, Eliot enrollment has grown at an annualized rate of over 15% over the past ten years while the overall Boston population has grown 1.1%. Are we as a community going to stand by and relegate our kids to a < 600 square foot facility that used to be public restrooms?

    The current folks in leadership at NEMPAC have a wonderful vision for what the future could hold — we should all do what we can to ensure they are able to execute their vision. It would be a massive win for the entire community.

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