The city is once again trying to sell the Durfee Textile building. What took so long? Mayor Flanagan wasn't even in office yet when he made it clear he was not happy with the Peabody proposal for the property. You would think that as he worked to reverse the deal he would have had the Redevelopment Authority prepare for rebidding the property out.
Amazingly that didn't happen and a year has passed since Will first suggested he'd like to see the property rebid. More amazing is the Redevelopment Authority has admitted that this sat on the back burner while they were embroiled in the whole casino land issue. Really? The RDA couldn't juggle rebidding this out while they worked on the casino deal? It seems this wouldn't have been that big a deal, especially when Ken Fiola admits we're basically using the same RFP as the last time.
Believe me I have nothing but praise for Flanagan's take on the Peabody proposal. The Durfee Textile is a special property that really requires vision and diligence to make sure it gets developed in a way that is going to be truly be beneficial to the city. The Peabody proposal never seemed to be more than a low-income housing project with a token arts element thrown in. The last thing we need there is more low-income housing. Heritage Heights is just west of it and the area is saturated with senior housing.
The Durfee Textile building really has the potential to anchor downtown revitalization. A lot has been made about how it could serve as a bridge to the waterfront but I think it also sits in an area that really has some of the best potential for revitalizing interest in Fall River's downtown.
The problem is I'm losing faith in the Mayor's diligence to see that this gets developed in a way that is consistent with the intentions of the Arts Overlay District. Will has publicly stated that he would like to see commercial development there that has arts and entrainment and food and retail. While the Mayor is still saying he would like to see commercial development there he is now saying:
“Let the private sector determine the proposals. They’ll be reviewed by the Redevelopment Authority and hopefully awarded to the applicant that will then dictate the best use for the property,”
Well what if the "best" proposal is one that includes more low-income housing are we then going to let that "dictate" the use for the property? I know, why would we accept such a proposal when the Mayor has clearly shown that he favors something else? Well, Mayor Flanagan didn't support the the YMCA project because of low-income housing but found a way to reverse himself. The Mayor didn't support a biopark on the 300 acre site because he thought a casino was a better use. He has now reversed that decision. Now in the those two cases I think he was right to reverse himself. I think the YMCA project, while not without concern, has merit and I believe that the biopark is going to make a huge difference for Fall River's future. However when it comes to the Durfee Textile building I hope the Mayor sticks to his initial thoughts on this. The BEST use for that property should complement plans for a revitalized downtown, not work against them.