MassDevelopment pays $35,806.95 a month
By Mary E. Arata
DEVENS -- MassDevelopment has spent $2.8 million to rent its headquarters at 33 Andrews Way on Devens since 2005. Ayer Selectman Frank Maxant announced his findings at the Oct. 25 meeting of the Joint Boards of Selectmen.
Maxant, who also serves as the JBOS vice chairman, asked MassDevelopment at its Oct. 12 board of directors meeting to provide information about the amount of rent the state agency pays to Devens Common developer and building owner Robert Walker to rent their Devens office space at 33 Andrews Parkway. Nashoba Publishing made a similar request following that meeting. The agency answered both requests with one letter.
MassDevelopment attorney Catherine Blue responded that MassDevelopment pays $35,806.95 per month. The lease term is from March 1, 2005 through Feb. 28, 2015. That means that from the beginning of the lease through Oct. 19, MassDevelopment has paid $2,858,179.30 to rent the building.
MassDevelopment used to be headquartered in the now-vacant Vicksburg Square Innovation and Technology Campus. Maxant has repeatedly faulted the agency for "telling us that Vicksburg Square is going to rack and ruin because it's not being paid attention to. Well how would it look now if they invested a million or two or $2.8 million in it? And what do they have to show for $2.
"That goes, I assume, to the property developer?" asked Shirley JBOS representative Rico Cappucci. Yes, said Maxant. The building and the entire Devens Common complex is owned by Westford developer Robert Walker.
"So 1.4 percent of their entire bonding authority has gone to rent," said Maxant.
"What would you like us to do with this?" asked JBOS Chairman Tom Kinch of the Devens Advisory Committee.
"Consider how MassDevelopment was trying to strong-arm us into Vicksburg Square," said Maxant.
In light of the agency's mission to preserve historical Devens assets, Maxant said MassDevelopment is committing "demolition by neglect" in contradiction to the town-approved Devens Reuse Plan of 1994.
"This might be the very thing we talked about tonight," said Cappucci. "This may be the kind of issue we need to put on the table to discuss with MassDevelopment -- what do you see as the future of the buildings? Do you have any plans?"
Maxant clarified that his questions are "How they've decided to expend their resources here and what they'd have accomplished with that money at Vicksburg Square."
Kinch said the concern would be raised to MassDevelopment.
"Send a memo to George so he's not caught off guard," said Cappucci. "Are they going to continue renting the building? It should be on the table."
Invigorated by an opinion given to the JBOS earlier in the evening by Shirley attorney Ernest Hyde, Cappucci said the JBOS's role was to advise MassDevelopment. Cappucci suggested that JBOS may want to advise MassDevelopment before it re-ups to rent 33 Andrews Parkway.
Maxant said the view of Vicksburg Square "is pretty bad" for Devens residents viewing the complex from across Rogers Field. Maxant said it didn't help that "they just slapped plywood" into the holes when window-mounted air conditioning units were removed. "The original windows would have made it more secure."
"MassDevelopment shows disrespect for the local community and those buildings," said Maxant.
"MassDevelopment needed new office space because its old space was antiquated as it failed to comply with ADA and fire safety codes," said MassDevelopment, in a statement issued Tuesday to Nashoba Publishing. "The current MassDevelopment offices comply with codes and strengthen the Town Center businesses in Devens."
MassDevelopment indicated it's now negotiating its future office space needs in Devens. "In doing so, MassDevelopment will carefully consider the agency's budgetary constraints and the impact that the agency's Devens location will have on the overall Devens economic climate."
"The $2.8 million that MassDevelopment has spent since 2005 on rent in Devens would represent just a tiny fraction of the $80-$100 million cost of renovating Vicksburg Square."