Cambridge Makes Progress with Troublesome Vail Court Building

The June 14, 2017 community meeting at Cambridge City Hall will mark the end of a long legal battle and help advance the redevelopment of the Vail Court property.

The legal push for the city to seize Vail Court by eminent domain started 12 months ago.

Mayor Denise Simmons filled an Order of Taking of the Vail Court housing complex in March 2016. The city council approved via a vote the eminent domain seizing of the abandoned Bishop Allen Drive property. The city council held the first in a series of meetings at the end of March 2016 to move forward with plans to demolish and rebuild on the site.

In September, the Cambridge City Council approved the city’s order to pay the Vail Court owners a fair market assessed value for the 24-unit building of $3.7 million to the owners, the Abu-Zahra family and its Six-S Realty Trust.

Six months after the city council’s approval to pay the property owner, a second in a series of public City Hall meetings were held on March 23, 2017. This meeting featured abutters, city residents and councilors led by Vice Mayor Marc McGovern. These parties reviewed the city’s plans and local residents concerns about open space. City councilors rejected the abutters’ call for an open space. McGovern highlighted that he has been pushing for Vail Court to be affordable housing rather than open space for the past few years.

Councilor Nadeem Mazen advocated affordable housing with a community garden as part of the space. Deputy City Manager Lisa Peterson pointed out that the site was being assessed for safety and was found to contain some hazardous materials that needed to be removed. Peterson stated that a bid to demolish will be issued by early April, and subsequently a subcontractor will be elected to tear it down in June.

Vice Mayor Marc McGovern spoke to Spare Change News about the future of Vail Court.

McGovern pointed out that a demolition permit has been issued and will commence sometime in the next few months.

McGovern stated that a third in a series of community meetings is scheduled for June 14. This meeting will provide project updates and allow for the collection of public opinions, including partnerships related to the development.

“The city of Cambridge is not in the business of being landlord,” McGovern said. “The city will look to partner with a nonprofit or a development company to take over the construction and manage the project.”

According to McGovern the council will decide to solicit requests for proposals from developers, will select a developer to commence construction and will locate a partner to manage the project.

Robert Sondak is a vendor and a writer for Spare Change News.