DEVENS — To budget for the coming year, the Devens Enterprise Commission reviewed the chances that build-out could pop for dozens of Devens parcels. The commission worked on guestimates of how much revenue the development could bring in permit fees in Fiscal Year 2013.
Mike Brewer, MassDevelopment Senior Vice President for Real Estate Sales and Marketing, provided the commission with a brief rundown on March 8.
Brewer talked of the potential sale of two acres of land on the western edge of the former Evergreen Solar factory at 112 Barnum Road.
“As you all have read in the paper, there is a party that’s interested” in the former solar panel manufacturing plant, said Brewer. Calere Properties of Hudson and Hackman Capital Partners of Los Angeles are already “very familiar with Devens.”
The plan is to locate two or three tenants in the 450,000 square foot plant, generating approximately $10,000 in permitting fees with the construction of a new parking lot.
Evergreen employed shift workers, and so there wasn’t a need for great numbers of parking spaces, said Brewer. With a subdivided factory, Brewer said there’d likely be more employees “working 9-to-5,” driving a need for more spaces.
The reuse of the plant would be good news for MassDevelopment, which attracted the solar panel factory to the former U.S. Army base in 2008. Within three years and after receipt of tens of millions of dollars in state loans and tax credits, Evergreen laid-off its 800 Devens employees and moved operations to China before declaring bankruptcy.
“MassDevelopment would like to do whatever we can to see the building put to productive use,” said Brewer.
A $250,000 cash-cow in permit fees could be the redevelopment of the vacant 450,000 square foot Vicksburg Square Innovation and Technology campus off Buena Vista Street.
“We stand firmly behind any reuse of vacant buildings,” said Brewer. The agency hopes to take “what really is sort of a blight at Devens and make it sort of a showcase.”
Boston developer Trinity Financial needs tri-town approval to rezone the buildings for multifamily use before the 246-unit apartment project can proceed. Commission Administrative Director Peter Lowitt pegged the chances of success at “Super Town Meeting” at “50/50” in order “to be conservative.”
“Our fingers are crossed,” said Brewer. Ayer, Harvard and Shirley Town Meetings decide the issue on March 28. If successful, “I expect Trinity Financial would be in here the next day,” said Brewer.
“We still hope” that work will start this spring on a much-celebrated movie and television studio proposed off Jackson Road. But MJM Development has slowed up a bit as they’re “trying to get their arms around the [Massachusetts] film tax credit incentive,” said Brewer.
The commission staff said there’s a 50 percent chance the Andover company would actually break ground in the coming fiscal year on work expected to generate $196,000 in revenue for the panel.
“We hope in a month or two they’d step up to the plate and initiate construction,” said Brewer.
“They said they were fully financed and anxious to get going,” said Commissioner Russ Smith. “So I’m curious as to what changed.”
“They do have 100 percent financing,” said Brewer. “There are a number of investors who are quite wealthy and could finance this $30 million.”
“Could?” asked commissioner James DeZutter. “You mean they haven’t?”
Brewer said the principals are “reevaluating the risk associated with that project.”
“I’ve been the yellow [caution] light throughout this project,” said DeZutter. He said the film tax credits, “can come, and they can go depending on the financial situation of the Commonwealth, which his not too rosy these days.”
A 6-megawatt, 35-acre solar photovoltaic farm was given a 50/50 shot of breaking ground this coming year, generating $40,000. Brewer said the company is still sorting out where it could sell energy produced.
Meanwhile, Citizens Energy and Rivermoor Energy are working out their joint 3-megawatt solar farm off Walker Road. It’s a project that would generate $32,250 in permit fees.
There’s several third-party owned warehouse/office space on the market, including: the former Netstal Jackson Road office space, the warehouse on Independence Drive formerly used by Kraft, warehouse space on Saratoga Drive formerly used by Gillette, and the former Barnum Road Budweiser warehouse.
“All are third party-owned so we promote them within our own website so anybody interested in leasing space or buying a building can know about those properties,” said Brewer.
MassDevelopment is “hopeful” for the sale of some parcels next year, like the former Red Cross building on Jackson Road. A suitor has considered the space for a retail store, but would be “more compelled’ if Vicksburg Square passes.
As for other large-scale residential development on Grant Road and Salerno Circle, the commission estimated those chances at 10 percent each with $250,000 in permit revenues for each venue. Brewer said those chances, however, are, “not particularly strong. We have not received any calls from residential developers regarding Grant Road.”
On the other hand, construction is afoot on 20 units (8 single family homes and 12 townhouse units).
The total list of potential “Level 2” projects was originally suggested at $1.7 million in permit fees. But after Brewer’s review, the commission agreed the Fiscal Year 2013 revenue stream is more accurately projected to fall in the $250,000 to $350,000 range. “We’re actually looking pretty decent,” said Lowitt.
In the final days of 2011, MassDevelopment demolished a 1960s church which stood aside Rogers Field. Brewer said there isn’t any interest in the parcel yet. Lowitt said it appears likely the land would be converted into a parking lot costing some $1 million.
In other business, the commission granted emergency approval for work to fix a failed culvert along Antietem Street at the intersection of Jackson Road. MassDevelopment engineer John Marc-Aurele explained that the Devens DPW discovered the problem when they found a “sinkhole developing” by the entrance of the Parker Charter School at the intersection.
Engineers who examined a headwall around the culvert gave “no confidence” in the structure, which had developed both horizontal and vertical cracks in the wing walls.
It was surmised that “at any time there could be failure of that headwall- it could last 30 years or it could go tomorrow,” said Marc-Aurele. “What makes it of concern to us is the school is right there with school buses going in and out of the area.”
Work is to get under way immediately to fix the problem. That stretch of Antietam was to close entirely for 2-3 days maximum. There was also a chance that, if needed, work could continue into the evening hours.
Commission Administrator Peter Lowitt said there’d be meeting with the contractor to ensure the workers know to be mindful both of noise and light generated at nighttime for neighbors near the project on Auman and Bates Streets.
The commission granted a 30 days window for the project’s completion (from March 15 to April 15).
— Follow Mary Arata at twitter.com/maryearata.