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Killer Vus! Inside East Cambridge's Sullivan Courthouse

Every developer needs a hook in the Hub's busiest building boom in living memory. You gotta make your project stand out. But how? Anyone who finally gets the state O.K. to redevelop the old Edward J. Sullivan Courthouse on Thorndike Street in East Cambridge will have a unique marketing opportunity. In March, the state rejected several bids to turn the largely empty, 22-story, 595,000-square-foot, Brutalist building into apartments and retail, and has now reset the whole process but with the same deadline: It wants a developer in-hand by July 1. Did we mention the building was "largely empty?" We did. That's because there is a jail on the upper floors, and those inmates will be moved once a redevelopment plan is in place.

The Globe's Linda Matchan walked through the building recently with Jail Superintendent Scott Brazis and Sheriff Peter J. Koutoujian. They were wistful. You know how that is—it's hard to say good-bye:

“I tell you, the views are spectacular,” said Brazis, during a tour of the lockup with a reporter, which included a stop in the 19th-floor chow hall. “You can see the Zakim and everything. And the Chuck,” he added. “Some people call it the Charles. Here we call it the Chuck.” ...

There’s also a chapel, which a security guard unlocks. “Stunning,” said Brazis. “You’d never know you’re in jail.”

What really makes the courthouse special, though, are the people.

Not far away, a den of stark steel caves is known, redundantly, as the “Isolation/Segregation” unit. There’s only one inmate today, furiously peddling a stationary bike under a guard’s watchful eye. “Hello, Mr. Mortimer,” Koutoujian said.

“Hello,” the man said pleasantly.

The man on the bike is Thomas Mortimer IV, the Winchester man charged with the grisly 2010 murder of his wife, mother-in-law, and two young children ages 2 and 4.

“He looks like someone I’d invite over for lunch,” the sheriff said, dryly.

Yes, but would you use his former occupancy to market upscale apartments? History can be a big, big selling point when it comes to real estate in these parts. Just sayin'. We're sure there are some strange souls out there who would welcome the opportunity to live in a former jail; if anything, just for the navel-gazing metaphors alone. The new redevelopment bids are due May 14, and there will be one more walk-through opportunity for would-be developers. Again, a decision by the state is expected by July 1.

· For Sale: 22-Story High-Rise, Mostly Abandoned, Walking Distance to Kendall Square. Prisoners Not Included [Globe]
· Sullivan Courthouse Pitches: Same Bat Channel, Same Bat Time [Curbed Boston]
· Rent Check! Boston Apartment Construction Booming [Curbed Boston]

Edward J. Sullivan Courthouse

Thorndike Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02141