Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Mysterious Police Station

Once upon a time, before the old Fall River police station on Bedford Street was considered a vital piece of downtown revitalization, it was just an old police station.

By the early 1990's the police station was cramped, outdated, and in serious need of repair. I seem to recall reading that the roof was in such poor condition that it couldn't be repaired. With much fanfare the police department moved into a new facility in 1996 and the story for the old police station seemed to be over.

I can't recall any talk of renovating, revitalization or reuse. The building was in deplorable condition and it seemed like the wrecking ball was soon to come.

This is where things get mysterious. Suddenly deplorable became restorable. Now there was talk of the old police station becoming the new home for the Narrows when they were forced to move. There was talk about it becoming part of an arts movement (this was in the Herald in early 2001). I guess a pre-arts overlay district. I think there was even talk about using it for a new courthouse location and the city said they couldn't part with it and intended to use it for an arts complex. Not only was deplorable now restorable, it was also an important piece to downtown revitalization.

Now this is where things get more mysterious. Five years after the old police station was vacated it was suddenly being discussed as an important part of the city's art renaissance. Still, the old building needed work and things should have been done to 'protect and preserve' and keep it from deteriorating further. It's distressing to read that in the mid-90's the city could have repaired the roof for about 5k, and now the cost to repair the roof is 6 times higher. So if mystery number one is how the building suddenly became restorable, mystery two is why no action was taken to do critical repairs.

The third mystery is how the old police station went from being a key piece of development that the city had plans for, to being up for sale! In 2005 the Lambert administration decided to cut ties with the building and offered it up for sale. Now, this is where the story gets familiar to most of us. The city sold the building by sealed bid, deciding to focus on best use and not highest bidder. This was a move I fully supported. First time around the building was awarded to Anthony Cordero his bid was only for 25k but he had plans to demolish the building and construct a new office building in its place. So, the building went from restorable back to deplorable (at least in Cordero's assement) but here was a great long term opportunity. Except, that it turns out that the property should have been assessed first and that value used in determining the floor price for bidding. After a lot of confusion the building was put back up for sale and eventually sold to John Pavao for about $160,000.

Now Pavao said he had plans to renovate the building but shortly after purchasing it he had it listed on his company website, for sale, for about $700,000.

So now the final mystery is who the hell owns this damn building?! Pavao now says that he sold his interest months after buying it and the building seems to be changing hands like it was an episode of "Flip This House." Now it seems that the building is owned by Casper Holdings LLC, which apparently purchased the building for 1.2 MILLION DOLLARS. Read that again and then realize that this is a building that we almost excepted a $25k bid on. Obviously this makes no sense and Mayor Correia is asking the Attorney General to look into this (GO BOB!). The manager for Casper, the friendly holding company, believes that the old police station is "going to be a very valuable piece of real estate." Well, someone please have him email me. He can purchase my house for half the price, and the roof doesn't leak. Okay, so Casper owns it and Bob is requesting the AG look into the sale, end of mystery right? No. Back when Lambert requested the properties be put back up for rebid he talked about protecting the city's interests.

"I’m also going to recommend that the bids in the future spell out that the winning proposals will be required to agree to fulfill the plans as submitted or the property would revert back to the city, or maybe we’ll do it with a performance bond. But we’ll require a significant financial penalty and fees if the plan is not fulfilled."

So, what happened to that recommendation? Is there a reverter clause? If so can we take the building back? What the hell is a performance bond? Are we slapping someone with some freakin' penalties? Or did we drop the ball?

Lefty's View: The bottom line is we should have taken the $25k and run! As much as I like to see history preserved there was the chance to see something better take place on that land. Now, we're the victims of people who are interested in paper assets and not the actual property. We need to aggressively pursue actions that will put the old police station back in our hands. Maybe the biggest mystery is how do we KEEP DROPPING THE BALL! Selling to the bidder with the best proposal is a great idea. What happened? We sold to Pavao when he had no detailed proposal to submit. Protecting our interests is crucial, so what happened to to the reverter clause? I can already imagine this happening again and again with the old Durfee Technical building and with all these empty school buildings. For the sake of the city, we better start getting this right.

Further reading

From Fall River Community:

Previous posts - A View From Battleship Cove
Take it back! - Why I think the city should take the old police station back by eminent domain

Former Police Station For Sale, Again!

An Arresting Development


Anonymous said...

Here's another mystery....

Why is Attorney Tom McGuire handling the dispute about the cost of the roof repairs when he, as corporation counsel, would have been involved in the drafting of documents or their supervision during the transfer of the old police station?

Seems to me that Attorney McGuire should not be representing clients in a dispute involving a municipal property that was sold during his tenure as Corporation Counsel.

Faye Musselman said...

Oh, I just have to this in - not that anyone will care one tiny twit.

In 1969, I read my first book on Lizzie Borden: Victoria Lincoln's A Private Disgrace. By 1977, after years of corresponding with the late Fall River Historical Society Curator Emeritas, Florence Brigham, I made my first trip to Fall River. I visited this old police station thinking it was THE famous police station that Officer Allen got his order at 11:15 from Marshall Rufus Hilliard to go up to the Borden house - "some kind of row". Well, I took several exterior pictures and went inside and talked to the officer at the short counter that ran north and south on the west side of the entrance door. My remembrance is that the place was cramped and dark then - back in 1977.

Imagine my disappointment when informed that station was not "THE" station and that "THE" station "Central Police Station" had been torn down decades ago.

Every visit I make to Fall River (3-4 times a year at least) I still marvel at that structure and consider the activity that once swirled around it.

Anyway, the current developments regarding its purchase smells to high heaven.

Where was the Fall River Preservation Society all these past years? hmmmmm?

"If it ain't la dee dah, it ain't our draw."