For the last 14 months, officials from 10 different agencies spanning state government have gotten together to find the “highest and best use” of properties and assets “that literally have been doing nothing for a really long time.” Governor Baker briefed reporters on Thursday about the progress that has been made through the administration’s “Open for Business” initiative, including the sale or lease of 22 state-owned pieces of land and the identification of 80+ potential projects.
When these first 22 projects are fully executed, they will generate:
- $413 million in revenue
- 1,556 new housing units
- 260 new jobs
- 100,000 square feet of commercial space
- $8.2 million in annual property tax payments to cities and towns
And that’s just the beginning. As the administration looks for “better and smart or more sophisticated use” of the property, it is the collaboration with the Commonwealth’s cities and towns, as well as private developers, that will help the program be successful with fulfilling goals that include increasing affordable and market-rate housing stock and expanding job opportunities.
What makes this effort different than anything state government has done before is that for the first time, assets that are owned by different agencies are being aggregated in one place, regular inter-agency meetings are streamlining the process, and progress is being tracked.
Shira Schoenberg of MassLive.com summarizes the diversity of the initiative and the projects already in the works:
Some of these are small. For example, the state is currently offering space for telecommunications equipment on the roofs of state office buildings in Pittsfield and Springfield and on the campus of Westfield State University.
Others are larger. Currently, the state is soliciting bids for the leasing of retail and office space at Springfield’s new Union Station and for four commercial lots on the former state hospital campus in Northampton, which is already being redeveloped with housing.
The projects already in the works are diverse. The MBTA approved the installation of 37 solar panels at T-owned parking facilities, which will generate $55 million for the MBTA over 20 years.
In Chicopee, the Department of Transportation is talking to a local developer who is rehabilitating a local mill building about leasing a piece of state-owned land under an adjacent highway to use for parking.
The Department of Transportation is currently examining the land that used to have toll plazas, before the state’s switch to all-electronic tolling, to identify whether there can be other uses for those spaces.
As Michael Jonas reported in Commonwealth, projects in the pipeline include plans to sell armories in New Bedford and Lynn next year and to issue a request for development proposals for 250 acres at the Monson Development Center.
Since the “Open for Business” program launched, it has been expanded from 42 properties to 85 potential projects across 41 cities and towns.
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