4 Sale: 22-story, 595,000-sf county courthouse
Asking price: $40M or best offer
Close to Kendall Square and the T! Handyman's delight! Act now!
So may be the pitch this morning as commonwealth officials begin taking potential buyers through the Edward J. Sullivan Courthouse on Thorndike Street in East Cambridge. It sits on on 1.37 acres spreading across an entire city block, and is open for development in 2012, when Massachusetts hopes to have found a buyer for it (the commonwealth itself, as well as the City of Cambridge, said no-thank-you on acquiring the courthouse).
And the jail on the top floors? Where 300 people are currently locked up? Not a problem. The prisoners will be moved to a jail in Billerica after any sale.
A commonwealth official told the Cambridge City Council on Monday night that Massachusetts expects to nab a developer savvy enough to understand the courthouse's potential. But the council has other worries. Per Scott Wachtler at The Chronicle:
“This is considered the sweet spot in real estate,” acting deputy commissioner of real estate Dana Harrell told Cambridge city councilors during a discussion on the property Monday night. “We see this as a premier redevelopment opportunity within walking distance of Kendall Square.” However, councilors were concerned that the public wouldn’t be involved in the process until after a buyer was chosen.
“If Cambridge has no one at the table to review the bids as they come through, who is there to protect the interest of the community?” Councilor Denise Simmons asked. “If there is no one there, it makes me uneasy.”
The city would be involved, however, in what eventually happens with the courthouse. It's zoned for a mess of uses, including residential and hotel.
Perhaps of bigger concern should be the fact that the site doesn't have to go to the highest bidder. It was once appraised by the city at $40 million, and then by the commonwealth at ... well, the commonwealth won't share its appraisal. Harrell did say it would cost between $10 million and $16 million for any new owner to clean up (the Third District Court moved out of it in the first place so asbestos could be removed). So for any buyer to turn a profit, how much is the courthouse, jail included, worth?