Feb. 1 came and went without a competing bid for the more than 80 acres of the former Rocky Point Park that the state hopes to buy for $9.65 million. Now Feb. 13 is on the calendar, followed by an unnamed day in March.
And even further ahead, Mayor Scott Avedisian looks forward to a relationship with the state that will not only rejoin the 41 acres of Rocky Point coastline the city acquired in 2008 with about 82 acres, but also outlines the development and uses of the land.
More immediately, the focus is on next Wednesday when Federal District Court Judge Ronald Lagueux considers the request of the Small Business Administration (SBA) that was appointed receiver for Moneta Capital to sell the land.
The significance of Feb. 1 is that it was the deadline for competing bids that would have had to have been at least 110 percent of the state’s offer to be entertained.
“Our position is to go into court on the 13th and ask to confirm our request,” SBA District Director Mark Hayward said Tuesday.
Although there are no bids at this time, a potential buyer could still show up in court and appeal to Lagueux.
When questioned, Hayward said there have been other interested parties, which he did not name.
“There have been people asking questions, but no formal proposals,” he said.
Assuming court approval, the next date would be a closing for the property, which could happen by the end of March.
Avedisian says he’s excited. He plans to hold a meeting with the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) that has been handling the purchase and would operate the park, “so we can hit the ground running.” Among the many issues he sees is establishing policies used to respond to requests that the city is already receiving. He said people have inquired whether they can erect benches in memory of loved ones at the park.
Citing Conimicut Point, where several benches have been privately installed along with shrines, Avedisian said there needs to be uniformity. He suggested an option for memorializing could be a brick walkway with inscribed bricks.
A fundamental question is how the two property owners – the city and the state – will interact.
“They’ll own their land,” he said of the state, “with covenants to us.” Conversely, the city owns the 41 acres with covenants already in place to the state and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The city used $800,000 from an open space bond, plus $1.4 million from DEM to match the $2.2 million NOAA grant enabling the $4.4 million purchase. The agreement also includes conservation easements, which can’t be undone, the mayor added.
Avedisian sees split ownership of the overall park as a good thing.
“It forces everyone to pay attention,” he said.
He also imagines a role for an “overseer,” a group or entity that would coordinate park use so that conflicting activities aren’t booked between the city and state.
Even with state acquisition of the remaining park acreage, much will need to be done to the property. Two major buildings, the former Shore Dinner Hall and the Palladium, are still standing, although in various stages of decay, along with scores of cottages in the Rocky Beach portion of the property. At the mayor’s urging, more than 40 structures that made up the park midway were leveled years ago. Piles of rubble dot the former park.
The city has offered to remove the cottages.
Estimates on cleanup have not been released, but generally it is projected to be more than $1 million and potentially much more depending on what is planned.
State funds for the purchase will come from $10 million earmarked for the park that was part of a $14.7 million bond issue approved by voters in 2010. A non-profit formed by citizens interested in preserving the entire former park, the Rocky Point Foundation, lobbied for placement of the referendum on the ballot and campaigned for its passage. The foundation aims to play a role going forward with a series of public meetings where people can share their ideas for the park’s future.