Last week residents from the east side of the City had the chance to tell Mayor Tim O’Brien what they would like to see done with the St. Thomas Aquinas property.
There were some great ideas, but making them work will not be an easy chore.
Having single family homes on the property appears to be the first choice. Senior housing was also very popular.
Most people did not seem to care if the building stayed up or was removed.
The problem is and always has been removing the building or fixing the asbestos problem.
The only way the City can sell it to a developer would be to solve one of those two problems first – which would cost around $1 million.
The City needs to look into getting a grant or finding another way to fix the issue. Without taking care of the problems, don’t expect a great response for the property.
If it is fixed, a realistic look at developers will then be needed.
Most likely, in this market, single family homes will not be a priority. (Although the City did auction off lots near Israel Putnam School a few years back which now have homes built on them.)
Knowing what residents would approve of is a first good step, but in some ways it is putting the cart before the horse.
The City must first make the property viable for sale and put out a request for bids to see who is interested. Once it is known who wants the property and for what use, then perhaps the City should ask what option residents prefer.
Right now, the only thing we know for sure is residents don’t want low income housing.