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Montuori: ‘I’m not going to allow … delay tactics’

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DEVENS — The Vicksburg Square Zoning Subcommittee met with MassDevelopment officials for the second time to discuss the draft Request for Proposal (RFP) regarding the redevelopment of the historic site.

“This is a very open-ended document at this point,” said Edmund Starzec, MassDevelopment real estate project manager. “The key thing here is to reuse the buildings.”

The draft RFP will seek proposals for the acquisition, redevelopment and long-term management of Vicksburg Square, which consists of a four-building quadrangle complex and three adjacent buildings, for roughly 435,000 square feet on approximately 19.6 acres of land. All of the Vicksburg Square buildings and surrounding landscaping are part of the National Register as a listed historic district.

“It seems as though the RFP is leaning toward housing rezoning,” Harvard Planning Board Chairman Joe Sudol said. “… I think it would more appropriate to allow mixed use of business and housing; not a full-blown 300 to 500 houses.

“What would be the impact to the schools (with that much housing)? Harvard is coming to near-capacity in our schools. These are historical buildings. I think if you went all residential, you’re going to run into problems.”

MassDevelopment Executive Director of Devens Operations Rich Montuori didn’t want the subcommittee to be confused about MassDevelopment’s goal regarding Vicksburg Square.

“We are primarily doing this for housing,” he said. “Let’s have no misunderstanding about that. We are redeveloping (Vicksburg Square) mainly for housing.”

Devens Committee member Phil Crosby added that rental properties are needed on Devens.

“I don’t know the numbers, but look at the hotel,” Crosby said. “There are long-term residents there. I’m sure the military has the need for rental properties and even Evergreen Solar and (Bristol-Myers Squibb).”

Starzec added that the current state of the real estate market would attract developers who would want to create rental properties versus homes.

Crosby said the subcommittee needs to keep an open mind while discussing the redevelopment RFP.

“We need to keep (redevelopment) as broad as possible,” he said. “We don’t want the buildings to sit for another 10 years and deteriorate. If this process is going to be dragged out six, eight, 10 months, we’re going to lose the buildings.”

Montuori emphatically stated that won’t happen.

“I’m not going to get bogged down on delays,” he said. “I’m not going to allow one town or member of a town to use delay tactics. We need to get a timeline in place and stick to it. I’d a like a decision on getting this thing done by January.

“We need a whole timeline. I’m not going to wait two months for the Harvard Planning Board to review (the RFP responses) and give comments. We need dates and we need to stick with them,” he said.

One representative from each of the four entities directly involved in the disposition of Devens would be allowed to participate in the interview process of the responses, but not the negotiations, according to Montuori and Starzec, who said there were at least four developers interested in the property.

“Which is four more than we had in the last 10 years,” Montuori noted. “Our concern is the buildings are deteriorating fast. I think everyone can agree that (the four buildings) are Devens. Everyone that comes to Devens sees Vicksburg Square.” I will emphasize, I don’t want to be delayed. We can use these buildings.”

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