The Natick Select Board now has 4 proposals in hand to mull for the possible sale and future use of 5 Auburn St., which includes a distinctive 3-story, roughly 14,000 sq. ft. brick building that has served as a school for most of its 100 or so years. The board has about 6 months to make what Town Administrator Jamie Errickson termed “a pretty big decision,” and will proceed with rankings, interviews, and maybe even field trips to applicants’ other projects in the weeks and months ahead.
The offers from those responding to the town’s request for proposals (RFP) for this property in the John Eliot Historic District range from $1 to $2M, and the uses pitched include an autism center, affordable housing, and duplexes. (Wow, not a single bio lab among them….well, the property is zoned for Residential General.).
Natick issued the RFP in early September for the property, assessed for about $3.8M by the town.
Fall Annual Town Meeting voted last year to authorize the Select Board to sell or otherwise transfer (“dispose of”) the 2.8-acre property at 5 Auburn St., which as we heard during Auburn Street RFP Committee meetings might look nice on the outside but needs lots of work inside to make it usable for most purposes (including Americans with Disability Act compliance). The selection criteria for the Select Board does include the extent to which a proposal preserves the existing structure and the open space along Eliot Street.
Changes to the property, which sits less than a half mile from the South Natick Dam park, would mark another big transition in this part of town in light of the Select Board’s recent decision to remove the spillway (aka, waterfall).
- Grace Gable Manoirs: The applicant proposes using the existing building at 4 Auburn St., for a non-profit center where children will be evaluated for autism and receive services. The proposal includes a $1.3M bid for the property, and cites the applicant’s experience running schools, including the Bilingual Montessori School of Sharon. The applicant, Linda Chery-Valentin, cites in the proposal an earlier attempt to buy or lease the property. Separately, the applicant has proposed a condo development in South Natick at 50 Pleasant St., and is back before the Planning Board later this month with her latest proposal. The applicant also been involved in litigation with with town.
- Natick Affordable Housing Trust: The bid here is for $1, though the Trust would actually issue its own RFP to partner with a developer “to build 23 units of age restricted affordable rental housing on the site, with adaptive re-use of the existing structures and preservation of the significant open space areas.” The Trust would contribute up to $600K in funding to the senior housing project, which would involve going through a friendly 40B process.
- Trask: Trask is offering $2M for the property, which it seeks to redevelop as a housing village involving the existing property and a couple of new ones. Trask has developed many properties in town, and recently has been building a 2-unit property nearby on South Lincoln Street following a teardown. Trask proposes divvying the property into 3 lots—1 where the existing property stands that includes 3 units in the main building and 2 in the gym, then 2 of which would house new duplexes.
- Metro West Collaborative Development: This non-profit community development outfit, which submitted by far the longest application, proposes a 32-unit rental opportunity for families earning up to 60% of the area medium income. It would put 21 units in a 3-story building behind the current 1, and have 11 units within the footprint of the current structure. Metro West cites its other affordable housing redevelopments, including at the West Newton Armory, and its ability to navigate funding sources from federal, state, and local entities. It would plan to partner with the Natick Affordable Housing Trust. Metro West has bid $100 for the property.
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Jeff Miller says
From reading these descriptions of the proposals I can’t tell whether Trask’s proposal means wholesale demo followed by new construction vs. keeping the buildings as they are and developing inside them. For me, the most important thing here is to maintain the same historic look and feel of this unique property. Forget the cost differences and choose the proposal that maintains that history. I’ve lived in Natick 30 years and I see the town steadily discarding its unique charm in favor of mundane-ization and jam-packed condos. Is that what you want? It’s not what I want. Choose the option that maintains the beauty and serenity of that lovely building.
diane YOUNG says
I totally agree with you.. too much of our town’s unique charm is being lost due to poor decisions that are all based on money. the biggest mistake will be removing the historic and beloved Charles River Dam and Waterfall.. Shame Shame.. Diane Young