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Jailhouse Chic: Cambridge Courthouse Destined for Apartments

Seven suitors have stepped forward for the chance to redevelop the old Edward J. Sullivan Middlesex Courthouse in East Cambridge. The bids for the 22-story, 595,000-square-foot tower on Thorndike Street seem to center around remaking it as an apartment tower with retail at the base. Currently, it's basically an asbestos-ridden jail, with court functions having moved a while ago (largely because of the asbestos) and the remaining inmates in the upper floors expected to be relocated once the state names a developer.

The two biggest challenges said developer will face? Getting rid of the asbestos, which could run to $34 million; and wooing the neighbors, many of whom, including local pols, wanted the thing demolished rather than redone.

"The neighborhood has been living in the shadow of this building for 40 years," Thomas O’Brien of HYM Investment Group told The Herald's Greg Turner. "They would really like to see some of that height reduced." HYM's $170 million proposal includes completely gutting the tower to the steel beams, knocking four floors off the top, encasing it in glass, and surrounding the base with 50 residential units, a cafe and a few shops.

Additional ideas include One Canal developer Trinity Financial's $150 million proposal to build what it calls Bulfinch Tower—the upper 18 floors would feature 306 apartments, including 35 affordable units, while the lower portion would be made into a "stately lobby, multi-function space for the public, and parking for the building’s residents and the larger community."

Other would-be developers include Boston Properties, owner of the John Hancock Tower; and the Congress Group, which is developing a 130-unit apartment building in Park Square. It should be noted, too, that the courthouse is zoned not only for residential use but for hotel as well. Stay tuned.

· Seven Developers Bid for Former Middlesex Courthouse [Herald]
· Oh That? That's the Jail. State Hawking Cambridge Courthouse [Curbed Boston]

Edward J. Sullivan Courthouse

Thorndike Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02141