EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

January 21, 2013

Deadline extended to attract bidders

Lawrence interested in campus if Haverhill fails

By Bill Kirk

---- — HAVERHILL — UMass Lowell has extended the deadline for proposals for a downtown satellite campus as it tries to entice property owners to bid on the project.

The college has also expanded the area those proposals can come from.

Meanwhile, several Lawrence property owners are interested in hosting the school, and one has even submitted a bid on the project even though his property is well outside the boundaries of the target area identified for the school.

In late December, the college announced plans to open a satellite campus in downtown Haverhill. College Chancellor Martin Meehan said the school was looking for 10,000 square feet of office space for six to eight “smart classrooms’’ and administrative offices for the satellite spot, which will focus on continuing education.

A request for proposals, or RFP, was published on the school’s website and distributed to area property owners. The deadline was Jan. 18.

That deadline has been extended to Jan. 25 and the map has been expanded.

The original RFP required the leased space be in downtown, within walking distance of Haverhill’s train and bus stations, and within an “area of interest” indicated on a map within the 60-page document. The map showed the downtown area from Main Street to the train station, and bordered by Walnut Street/Bailey Boulevard to the north and the Merrimack River to the south.

The new map has the same east-west coordinates and is still bordered by the Merrimack River to the south, but has been nearly doubled in size by extending farther to north, all the way to Route 97/Winter Street.

Christine Gillette, a spokeswoman for the college, said the map was changed “after a team from the university did a site walk of the area and felt that there were more potential locations beyond what was covered by the first map.’’

“In addition, some in the community indicated they were unsure whether properties along the edge of the previous map would be considered, so it also made sense to adjust it to clarify the area of consideration,” she said.

Because of the change in the map, the deadline also had to be changed, she said.

“The deadline for proposals was extended because the map was revised after the initial question-and-answer period (Jan. 4 to Jan. 11) ended,” Gillette said. “To be fair, the university wanted to offer additional time for potential bidders to ask questions .... To allow time for people to take advantage of that, the deadline was extended to 11 a.m. on Friday, Jan. 25.”

Gillette said the university has not received any proposals yet, “but those who handle proposals at the university say this is not unusual and that they are typically submitted either just before or on the deadline.”

She added, “We are seeing an increase in interest.”

If things don’t work out in Haverhill, one Lawrence city councilor said there are property owners in his city who would be happy to host the school.

Councilor Daniel Rivera said he has spoken with several Lawrence property owners, including: Marianne Paley Nadel, owner of Everett Mills; Julio Silverio, owner of a commercial property near the Lawrence campus of Northern Essex Community College; Rafael Guzman of RM Technologies on Broadway near Malden Mills; and Lawrence Community Works, which is developing a series of mill buildings near the Duck Bridge.

Guzman “actually submitted a bid on the property,’’ Rivera said.

“I told them even though the RFP is for Haverhill, given the slow turnaround, we should submit proposals so at least they know there is an abundant quantity of property in Lawrence,” Rivera said. “In the event Haverhill can’t deal with it, Lawrence is ready to service them.”

He added that he didn’t want to anger Haverhill Mayor James Fiorentini or Rep. Brian Dempsey, D-Haverhill, who is chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.

“This isn’t to create havoc with them,” Rivera said. “More important is to show that Lawrence is equally prepared to take this school.”