The So Called People Republic of Cambridge -- The Foundry

The So Called People Republic of Cambridge -- The Foundry

The Foundry to sell or not to sell... Or maybe we should dispose of it with an original RFP...

Last night the City of Cambridge put on a show like no others. Headed by city manager, Mr Rossi, a group of city employees, a meeting supposed to be about engaging the community to discuss best use of the Foundry and alternative creative financing solutions, was in fact the first step in the disposition, aka sale, of the building, disguised as a very long term lease. The preferred solution of the city manager (see bottom of article). The Foundry, without a doubt, will end up in the hands some developer, which will be somehow be restricted in it’s possible uses and the choice of which would not include the community.

But let me put things in context. On August 5th 2013, the following committees: Neighborhood and Long Term Planning, Economic Development, Training and Employment and Public Facilities, Arts and Celebrations held a meeting to dive into the “Reuse Study” submitted to the City Council on June 24th by HFMH Architects. By the end of that meeting, for the minutes click here. city councilors, all the one who were present requested the city manager, who is set on disposing of the building, to look at alternative ways of financing the renovation of the Foundry outline by HFMH. And to figure out original possible use to make the building a ‘special place’. During said meeting the city manager told the city council, which I thought at the time was a significant thing (see my article.....), that if they gave him direction he would follow. The city councilors gave the city manager direction, they told him too look and report on alternative financing as well as lease, of the building with the intend of original uses. See below detail order of Mayor Davis.

Last nights under the header:

“Informational discussion on the Foundry Building on Wednesday, October 30th 5:30-7:30pm at the Cambridge Police Headquarters Auditorium (125 Sixth Street, 4th Floor East Cambridge) “

An informational discussion, turned into the first formal step for the disposal through a long term lease of the Foundry building, the preferred solution of the city manager. I still can’t believe I’m writing this, so I’m gone repeat just to make sure I’m really awake, what was presented by the officials of the City of Cambridge: an informational discussion on the Foundry Building, was actually the first step in the sale, disposal, through a long term lease (like the Queen of England, she owns everything you just lease for 100 years when you buy a property) of the building. Once more so that everyone gets me. The City of Cambridge misled it’s citizenry into believing that the meeting they were attending was an Informational discussion on the Foundry Building when it was the first step to allow for the disposal, in this case through a long term lease of the building. Please refer to Municipal Code here Title 2, article 2.110.010. Although the city manager has been explicitly ask to look at alternatives, see end of article.
Most of the people attending the meeting had no idea what was going on. But it was a necessary meeting so the City could claim due diligence. The city manager presented clearly the fact, the meeting was not an informational meeting but the first step (as mandate by the municipal code) in the sale, long term lease, of the building which should end up in the hands of the some for profit organization, by June of next year.
In short, the City Manager, overlooked what the city councilors had ask and went ahead with his own agenda of selling, disposing, of the building. So, once again I’m gone repeat myself, to make sure everyone gets me. The City Council issued a specific request, which I think in the governance term of our City means ordered, the city manager, to look at alternatives to selling or long term lease, for financing the renovation of the building. The City Council, through it’s varying committees, requested the city manager, to investigate creative financing and report on best use to serve the public. During the meeting last night Mr. Rossi, the city manager, only presented his view. We were treated to an “Informational Session”, a disguise, how appropriate on Halloween eve, to pursues his own agenda, the sale, disposal, through a long term lease of the said Foundry Building.
I still have to pinch myself, did this really happen. The best explanation is that I’m complete nuts... I have no sense of realty ... and I must be an idiot, a real idiot. No other explanation makes sense... or maybe there is... But in my idiot mind, this is a day light robbery, everyone is watching and no ones is doing anything. What really ticks me, which makes me even more idiotic than I thought I was, is that it’s an election year. Next Tuesday people are going to vote, exercise what they think is their most precious right, in what they think is a real democracy...
To me it looks like the city manager completely is by passing the Councilors request and presenting only his view. It doesn't bode well. And to think for a time I thought this was going to end well, I’m a real idiot, no doubt about it.

Definition:
1. disposal: sale, transfer, lease or rental, or exchange

Mayor Davis policy order July 29th 2013
That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to develop cost benefit analyses for at least five scenarios related to the Foundry Building. All options would retain at least 10,000 square feet for community use. Analyses should include funds that would need to be expended to refurbish the building and any ongoing maintenance and management expenses. Also to be noted any potential income from sale or lease. 
  Options:
1. Retain the building and if necessary rehab it for lease as a commercial building.
  2. Retain the building using the entire building as community space/non-profit rental. In this option describe possible funding mechanisms.
  3. Sell the building with an agreement for community space.
  4. Improve the building for use as a childcare facility. 
  5. To be determined; and be it further

From Minutes of meeting of August 5th 2013 and October 7th 2013

Councillor Toomey commented that Alexandria and the Broad buildings will soon be opening. The Broad capital should be used to fund this project. There will be additional taxes paid in the city. Money is coming into the City. Mr. DePasquale stated that new construction helps distribution on the commercial side. This needs to be looked at and planned.
Councillor vanBeuzekom commented that there are four ways to fund the Foundry. They are raise taxes, get bonding, pay out of free cash or do some creative process. Mr. Rossi added leasing to a developer who would do the renovations.
Mr. Rossi stated that it would helpful for the City Council to specify the amount they want to spend on the building and their ideal uses so that we can explore creative financing.
Councillor Cheung wanted to look at creative financing. He noted that the City should not simply peg itself to 10,000 square feet of community space, but should use this time to think creatively about a use that would be the best for the community. ... He wants to fit different communities in this space, and to explore creative financing options to make this building usable. He does not want to sell the building.