Another chance for redemption in the north end

The opportunity to redevelop the former Phillips Avenue School, return the property to the tax rolls, and provide New Bedford with new jobs and more affordable housing goes before the public once again next Tuesday, April 16.

That’s when the folks from Cruz Companies lay their plan for renovating the Phillips Avenue School before the New Bedford City Council. The meeting will be at 7:00 p.m. in City Council Chambers, Room 214 at City Hall.

Supporters of saving the historic school building and rehabilitating it for the future are welcome and encouraged to attend.  A rendering of the renovation is pictured above. 

Accommodating the needs of neighborhood residents, Cruz has proposed providing 16 public parking spaces on the redeveloped property to alleviate their parking concerns.

Nonetheless, some say it’s not enough and, after being allowed to park on the property for years – an arrangement that doesn’t exist at the closed Kempton School on Shawmut Avenue, for example – the chance to redeem the building may be slipping away if the proposal doesn’t have the votes needed to pass the council.  

A Request For Proposal (RFP) for the property delivered not only one credible opportunity to rescue the building, but one period.

While some have suggested that the property could be used for other purposes – such as a youth center – the reality is that no one has stepped forward to pay for such an outcome.

Here are some relevant facts about the Phillips Avenue School redevelopment proposal, which Cruz Companies plans to present before the council next week:

  • The Phillips Ave school closed its doors on June 24, 2010 and it has been empty since then.
  • The vacant and abandoned building has been tax exempt for generations, and it costs the city about $50,000 per year to maintain it.
  • Rehabilitating the property would put it back on the tax rolls, thereby removing an unnecessary burden to taxpayers.
  • The building, which was built in 1897, would become eligible for placement on the National Register of Historic Places.
  • $5.5 million will be invested by Cruz Companies, which will clean the building of hazardous materials and rehabilitate it into safe housing units.
  • Cruz will build 17 mixed income housing units.
  • The proposal includes community amenities, landscaping, security, 34 parking spaces for tenants, plus an additional 16 for neighbors in the area which will cost an additional $400,000 to build and will be paid for by Cruz Companies.
  • The Cruz proposal will bring jobs to New Bedford by utilizing 75% of local vendors and 75% of local workers for this project.
  • If City Councilors vote against Cruz’s proposal, it will cost New Bedford and its taxpayers $1.5 million to demolish and build a municipal parking lot.

About Cruz Companies:

Cruz Companies has built a reputation for excellence in the fields of construction, development and management. They are one of the oldest and largest, minority-owned companies in the Northeast.

A third-generation, family-owned business, Cruz is a modern firm that values old-fashioned quality and integrity. The John B. Cruz Construction Company is responsible for landmark projects and developments across the region: Cruz Development Corporation produces well-designed homes, maintaining the highest standards of workmanship, and; Cruz Management Company, Inc., Provides quality residential housing management services.

In addition, Cruz is committed to building community through their charitable work and utilizing local vendors and subcontractors whenever possible.