City urged to sell Hub sites

City urged to sell Hub sites

As Boston homeowners face a 7.5 percent property tax hike and the city’s schools confront a $63 million shortfall, a city watchdog group is asking the Menino administration to sell a pair of underused buildings in the North End that could fetch more than $15 million.

The Boston Finance Commission wants to know why Mayor Thomas M. Menino has failed to market two adjacent properties near the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway at 150 North St. and 130 Richmond St. In a letter to the mayor, the commission said the city should seek proposals in an open, competitive bidding process for the shuttered printing department and the former police station.

“The return from the sale of these properties should result in a significant return to the city, elimination of maintenance costs and newly captured real estate taxes,” said Matthew Cahill, the finance commission’s executive director. “The building on North Street has spectacular views of the downtown Financial District, Faneuil Hall and the Greenway.”

Cahill noted that city officials have led tours of the buildings for staff of the North Bennet Street School, a nearby nonprofit that trains students in the trades and is looking for larger space. While the school has a long history in Boston, taxpayers would be better served if there’s an open-market effort to sell the properties to the highest bidder, he added.

“The fairest thing to do is to issue (a request for proposals) and let the market decide the value,” Cahill said. “If the city just gives the inside track to the school, then we won’t know how much relief the buildings could bring.”

Miguel Gomez-Ibanez, president of the North Bennet Street School, said he would like to trade the school’s building to the city for the two properties, but he insists no deal has been signed.

“We have talked to the city about the possibility of a swap, but we are a long way from making it happen,” he said. “It would be a great opportunity for the school, but the city has to review everything, and it’s not a secret deal.”

Menino spokeswoman Dot Joyce said, “All property dispositions go through a process – this property will be no different.

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