Why Sell Mechanics Hall?
The building has had very limited use for many years. A 1997 study found that it would cost $350,000 to repair the building. By 2007, the repair cost had risen to $1,000,000. It has significant structural issues, limited parking, and a failed septic system. The site may not lend itself to a large septic system and therefore uses that are water intensive may not work. In addition, the Town has identified no use for the building. In response to the continued deterioration of the building and concern about its future, residents formed the Friends of Mechanics Hall in 2012 in an attempt to save the building. In the 4th quarter of 2016, the Town Administrator brought her concerns for the continued use of Mechanics Hall to the Selectboard’s attention. The board requested a review of the structure by the building inspector. The Friends of Mechanics Hall provided a study completed by WPI in 2014 (see here). The study demonstrated an unarguable position that sections of the building did not pass structural analyses and required rehabilitation for occupancy. The Selectboard supported the proposal to close Mechanics Hall to all uses.
In November of 2017, the Friends came to the Selectboard for a discussion on the future of the property and costs to town of maintaining the building. The Friends noted at least 165 active supporters of their cause and outlined the historical importance to the Village and to the entire town.The Friends and Board discussed whether rehabbing the building to support a commercial tenant on the first floor was feasible. Jon Fudeman discussed his analysis that showed that rental income would not cover debt incurred from the costs of a rehab. Richard Bisk doubted that voters would approve spending money on the building. Edith Morgan stated that the Town doesn’t want to get involved. Karen Rossow asked that Selectboard continue to cover the insurance for a few more years while the Friends pursue ideas and options. Richy praised their efforts but said the Selectboard was seeking ways to divest the Town of the responsibility for Mechanics Hall.
In May 2018, voters at Annual Town Meeting authorized "the Board of Selectmen to sell and convey 104 Main Street, being approximately 0.306 acres of land, the so-called Mechanics Hall property … subject to the Selectmen’s decision on the recommendations of a committee, to be formed, and upon any other terms and conditions as determined by the Selectmen…”
The Selectboard formed the Mechanics Hall Committee with the following charge:
- Research and recommend any restrictions to be placed on the sale of the property. Surveying of the Princeton community is encouraged.
- Develop a description of the property, including comment on the septic system & well water and any other disclosures. Research and outline methods by which the town can sell the property (M.G.L. c. 30B – refer to the Chapter 30B Manual, and with questions, contact the Inspector General’s Office). Recommend a method of sale and present to the Town Administrator. Considering feedback by the Town Administrator, draft the advertisement and any bid documents necessary to begin the process of selling the building.
- By February 1, 2019 report on the findings of the committee to the Selectboard.
The Selectboard was pleased that the committee included two members of the Friends of Mechanics Hall (Karen Rossow and Larry Pistrang) and one real estate agent (Jen Shenk). As part of the committee's work, they surveyed residents regarding their preferences for the future use of the building. The committee’s report, in the form of a draft Request for Proposals (RFP) is attached below.
Request for Proposals (RFP)
Round 1: The initial RFP was published in May 2019 with a response deadline of June 17, 2019. We received only one proposal, approximately a half page in length, which lacked most of the detail requested in the RFP. Since this was the only proposal, we worked with the submitter to obtain the additional information required. Ultimately we were unable to come to terms on an acceptable Land Development Agreement and the potential developer withdrew his proposal on February 21, 2020
Round 2: The RFP was issued again in April 2020 with a response deadline of June 1, 2020. Again we received only one response. This one had considerable detail in its 81 pages. On June 9, 2020, the Board voted all in favor to proceed with the Mechanics Hall proposal submitted by Red Cardinal contingent on a mutually satisfactory Land Development Agreement and Host Community Agreement, and that the Board invite Red Cardinal to submit drafts of the said agreements for the Board's consideration.
Sample Land Development Agreement
The sample development agreement attached below is the type of agreement that the Selectboard would like to have in place with a potential developer. There will be a restrictive document that follows the building so that if it is sold, subsequent purchasers must abide by the original agreement.
Red Cardinal (dba RC Retail Princeton's) Proposal:
Red Cardinal was the only responder to the April 2020 RFP. Their full proposal is attached below.
Marijuana in Princeton:
The Planning Board wrote a letter to the Selectboard with its thoughts on the impact to Town of the passage of the referendum licensing commercial cultivation of marijuana and retail sales of marijuana. That letter can be found here.