September 21, 2018

Burnside - Hoppin Avenue Housing Plan Shot Down. Dog Park Instead?

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The proposal to sell the long vacant Platt-Watters school complex on the Burnside-Hoppin Avenue block in Riverside was unanimously voted down by the city council at the August 21st meeting. The city has been contemplating what to do with the closed school buildings which have been vacant and its parking lots weed-strewn for years. After the city advertised for the sale of the property, one bidder came forward, the Terrapin Group LLC from Cumberland, RI. The buildings, built in 1930, have an assessed value of about $2.5Million according to city tax records. The developer initially submitted a bid of $500,000 to demolish and develop the property by building some 33 condo units. Most of the surrounding neighborhood objected to the density of the proposal and the project languished between public workshops and council meetings.

The developer amended its proposal to build some 18 individual private homes on roughly 5,000 square foot lots. The developer lowered its bid, however, to $400,000. "By lessening the scope of the project and considering we'll have to demolish two buildings, our offer is now down to $400,000. My client said this is a final and firm offer," said developer Lawyer Michael Resnick.

The city council became increasingly reluctant to sell the property for only $400,000. "We have a fiduciary responsibility to sell for market value," said Mayor James Briden. "We need an appraisal (official) not understated numbers," Briden added.

The council did not have formal appraisal numbers before them nor did anyone clearly answer how the selling price of $400,000 had been arrived at. Ward Three councilman Joe Botelho, a realtor by profession, thought that the total property is worth much more than $400,000. "Maybe we should put a park there. If we can't sell it, knock it down. Kill it now," Botelho said to applause from several neighbor residents present at the meeting.

"It is down for a vote tonight, you can take a vote to reject and we can re-bid it," said acting City Manager Chris Parella. "Yes, but let's decide what we want. A dog park, houses, what?" added Botelho. The proposal as submitted was rejected and talk among some on the council was turning toward green space as opposed to housing. "I should be against open space, as a realtor," said Botelho. "But there isn't much open space left in the city." The city council will revisit plans for the area.

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