Plot twist in Yellow House discussions

Bidder withdraws after documents ruled ‘unresponsive’

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One of two bids for renovating the Yellow House in Edgartown has been withdrawn.

One of two developers bidding on the renovation of the Yellow House withdrew the application Monday after the town’s procurement officer said it was not completely responsive to the request for proposals.

In a 5-2 vote, the Yellow House Committee accepted the withdrawal of the proposal led by architect Patrick Ahearn and developer Michael Hegarty, which would have featured as many as seven housing units, three retail shops, and a public park.

Including the park space as part of the lease space and an expansion of the footprint of the building were among the things that disqualified the project, the town’s procurement officer, Juliet Mulinare, told the committee. Two required forms were also left out of the application, she told the committee.

“Rather than belabor the point, the writing is on the wall,” Mr. Ahearn said. “We’ll be happy to move along.”

The two committee members, Gail Croteau and Carol Fligor, who voted against the withdrawal said they felt blindsided by the project being disqualified. “Both groups have put in tremendous effort. [Mr. Ahearn] deserves another chance.”

Ms. Mulinare said she didn’t want to prejudice the committee before it heard a detailed report from the competing bidder.

Mr. Ahearn and Mr. Hegarty were competing against another local bidder who proposed a similar mix of residential housing and retail. That bid was made by builder Marc Nicotera and architect Dudley Cannada, with financial investor Stephen Berger, who teamed up as Trademark Services LLC.

Though Trademark initially included a community space for perhaps a library annex as part of its proposal, that has been eliminated in lieu of more retail space, Mr. Berger said during Monday’s presentation. “Allocating roughly a third of [the space] to nonpaying customers is not financially realistic,” he told the committee.

The Trademark group is proposing three year-round residential units, and has had preliminary talks with Island Housing Trust to lease the spaces as affordable. IHT executive director Philippe Jordi and the trust’s chairman, Richard Leonard, were at the meeting to offer their support to the Trademark project.

At times, Monday’s meeting got personal, with Mr. Ahearn pointing out that Mr. Berger lives most of the year in South Carolina and Mr. Cannada lives in Washington, D.C. He mentioned a project he worked on with the builder, Mr. Nicotera, that he says has not followed plans approved by the town.

Mr. Nicotera countered that he has not had any issues with the town’s zoning board or building department on the project. “If there was an issue with the town, I would respond to that issue very quickly,” Mr. Nicotera said. “It’s rather unfortunate that’s been brought up.”

Both bidders proposed as much as $2 million in renovations to the historic house on Edgartown’s Main Street. The house, adjacent to Edgartown Town Hall, was taken last spring by eminent domain for $3 million because it had fallen into disrepair from years of neglect. The previous owners, the Hall family, had been given numerous opportunities to fix up the building, but nothing ever materialized.

Interestingly, Ben Hall Jr., who represented his family during the eminent domain process, sat in the audience listening to the discussion. In a nod to just how much interest there is in this project, the town hall meeting room was filled to capacity, and selectman Margaret Serpa also sat in on Monday’s proceedings, even though they were held during the workday.

Committee members are filling out individual evaluation forms, and will meet next Monday at 12 noon to discuss the evaluations and open the price proposal, which is what the developer agrees to pay for rent and what they are proposing for the length of the lease. The committee’s recommendation could go before the board of selectmen, which will ultimately make the decision on awarding the contract, later that day.

 

Preserving Yellow House
On Monday, the Yellow House Committee got its first detailed report on what Trademark Services hopes to do. “We’re doing our best to preserve what’s at the Yellow House,” Mr. Nicotera said. The size of the footprint won’t change, he said.

Mr. Berger acknowledged that the team was hastily brought together, but a lot of thought was put into what could be done with the building. “It’s a very exciting chance to preserve a key part of our town and bring it back to life in a very nice way,” he said.

During his presentation, Mr. Cannada said the retail space on the first floor is needed to financially justify the $1.8 million in renovations proposed.

There was a lot of discussion about $200,000 that it would cost to create a park area between Edgartown Town Hall and the Yellow House. It’s not included in the proposal, but is open to negotiation during the lease talks.

“Our plan takes very seriously the public use aspect of this project,” Mr. Cannada said. “The plaza we’ve designed … we believe is a very useful and beautiful area that can be used just on a day-to-day basis by pedestrians on the street, and can be used for functions like music or maybe a marketplace of some sort.”

An addition is proposed on the first floor, which will be set aside for retail, he said. Originally, there was discussion of that being community space, which Ms. Croteau said was an appealing part of the plan.

“Sadly, that was a casualty of the redrawings and the economics,” Mr. Berger said.

Rental apartments are planned for the second and third floors. The vision is to rent to people with year-round jobs in the community who would “otherwise struggle to find year-round housing,” Mr. Berger said. There is no deal with Island Housing Trust, but offers and counteroffers have been made, he said. Subletting during the summer months would not be allowed.

Mr. Jordi confirmed the negotiations. “The concept that we’ve laid out is to purchase and then lease these three apartments, and that would be at 100 percent of median income, so we’re talking about people making between $60,000 and $70,000 a year for a couple, for approximately $1,500 or $1,600 a month,” Mr. Jordi said.

Mr. Berger told the committee that he’s had talks with Martha’s Vineyard Savings Bank to finance part of the project, but said he is willing to finance the whole project if acceptable collateral can’t be worked out. There may be other investors interested as well, he said.

Karen Burke, an attorney with Reynolds, Rappaport, Kaplan & Hackney, said the use of lease agreements as collateral is not recommended by town counsel. “What it could mean is that the town ends up working with the bank rather than the winning bidder,” she said. “If there would be a default in the lease, there could be this ongoing encumbrance on the property to secure the obligation to the bank.”