METRO WEST DAILY NEWS – Urban Affairs Committee members Tuesday signed off on seeking requests for proposals (RFP) to redevelop the Walker Building as a residential facility, hotel or mixed-use complex.
The full City Council is slated to vote on submitting a request for proposals later this month.
The Walker Building – described by city officials as a gem, but an underperforming asset – is about half vacant. The Community Development Authority recently moved its offices from the facility to the former senior center, while the Veterans Department moved to the senior center. The Marlborough Economic Development Corporation this summer tapped SMMA Architects to analyze the Main Street landmark’s condition and develop potential reuse options.
The firm determined the best reuse of the building would be as a mixed-use property, hotel, residential development or municipal office space, according to a 137-page report released to the City Council earlier this year. Committee members Tuesday said mixed-use, residential or a hotel are the best options because they would generate economic development downtown.
Submitting a request for proposals will allow city officials to see what the market is for a potential project.
“The (request for proposals) is going to give us what we need to start making decisions,” said committee member Donald Landers.
A public hearing will likely be held when any requests for proposals are submitted to the city.
Officials from SMMA estimated it would cost a developer about $15 million to turn the iconic building into a hotel, residential development or mixed-use property.
A mixed-use option would likely include a combination of residential apartments or condominiums with office space, a restaurant, retail stores or performing arts space, according to SMMA. The City Council in late 2014 approved a new downtown zoning aimed at spurring redevelopment. That zoning encourages mixed-use properties.
Redeveloping the facility into residences or a boutique-style hotel could help benefit local businesses – a priority of city officials, according to the report.
City Council President Ed Clancy expressed some hesitation about bringing a hotel downtown.
“Would another hotel fit downtown?” said Clancy. “I don’t know if a hotel is the best option.”
Committee members and councilors voiced concerns that a lack of parking adjacent to the building could be an issue for developers.
Mayor Arthur Vigeant and MEDC officials have stressed any future use of the Walker Building will be predicated on the building’s exterior being unchanged.
The Walker Building was constructed in 1897 and was enlarged in the 1920s. It was last renovated in 1964.
This article by Jeff Malachowski originally appeared here.