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Quincy Center project takes a step forward

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  December 17, 2010 02:44 AM

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A key element in the revitalization of Quincy Center advanced Thursday night and now awaits approval by the City Council next Monday.

The city’s joint finance and downtown subcommittee voted unanimously to recommend the Land Disposition Agreement (LDA), which defines the scope of the redevelopment project and the financing arrangements, reached with Street-Works Development LLC.

The motion to recommend the agreement was just the first step. Yet even this small step took a giant leap of effort – involving weeks of reflection, over 40 hours in committee, and the hiring of an outside counsel to review the LDA and recommend changes.

“It has its risks,” said Quincy Planning Director Dennis Harrington. “And Street-Works has to fund a lot of capital to make this work. But they are going to, under this LDA agreement, begin activities and bring us a redeveloped downtown even prior to the legislation, even prior to having financing in place…

“I think we have a partner going forward, and I think we all know that this is maybe the last opportunity to revive our downtown, at least for this generation,” he said.

For Street-Works, the extensive evaluation of the LDA was grueling, but well worth it.

“There is nothing in the document that we’re not comfortable with, and the strategy in that document we’ve executed before,” said Street-Works Managing Partner Ken Narva. “Quincy is a 300-year-old city, it’s very unique, and … we’re very optimistic.”

The Quincy Center redevelopment envisions a mix of retail, residential, and commercial properties, with large swaths of green space. Under the 10-year project, the city will sell parcels of land to Street-Works, then buy back those spaces when they start generating taxes. The project is designed to pay for itself.

The LDA now goes to the City Council next Monday. Even if the Council passes it, the agreement is but a single bullet point in a list of things to accomplish before the city or Street-Works will go ahead with the $1.28 billion project.

For example, Quincy still has to finance $50 million of infrastructure improvements, none of which, under the new terms of the LDA, can come from city budgets.

According to Nick Puleo, Quincy’s director of municipal finance, the brook highlighting and relocation project, construction of the Cliveden Bridge Extension, and the rerouting of Hancock Street will be financed with grant money, which all has to come in before June 30, 2012, the LDA states.

However, with $2 billion in deficits at the State House, obtaining that money is far from a sure thing.

At Thursday’s meeting, attorney Robert A. Fishman, one of the council members hired to do the review, summarized the final changes to the document.

“We’ve clarified the intent of the parties, and strengthened the revisions of it. We’ve made the document clearer and stronger,” said Fishman.

Among the changes was the reaffirmation in the tax-exempt status of the city bonds, the need for City Council involvement if the cost of any step of the construction changes by five percent or more, and protection against the bankruptcy of the project’s participants.

In addition, the LDA allows structures in the revitalization to forgo property taxes, as part of provision 121A in the agreement. This Quincy-specific statute will still have to be passed by the state Legislature as a home rule petition.

Although a lot of work lies ahead, Puleo feels the project’s merit will carry it through what may be some difficult and uphill battles.

“We have something that is so novel, and would be such a change in the way we do urban redevelopment, that we think for both the special legislation and for the grant funding, that it will be received very positively,” Puleo said.

“I think this is really redefining what a public/private partnership is. And I think because of that, this will have a lot of steam behind it.”

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