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City closes in on Wonderland as new high school site

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  The former Wonderland dog park is one vote away from being the site of the new Revere High School. Last week, the Revere High School Building Committee unanimously selected the Wonderland site as the preferred option for a new high school building over the current high school site. Last Tuesday night, the School Committee unanimously voiced its support for that option.

  This coming Monday night, the City Council is expected to vote on the Wonderland option. If the City Council votes in the affirmative, architects will begin the process of drawing up more detailed schematic plans for a new high school.

  The advantages of the Wonderland site that have been touted by the project team consisting of representatives from owner’s project manager LeftField and architect Perkins Eastman include the ability to build on the site in a single phase with less disruption than building at the current site while school is in session and the ability to keep the current high school site in play as a future home of a new unified middle school. The Wonderland option has a lower overall price tag than the options presented for the current high school, with early estimates around $375 million. But the city would have to shoulder a slightly higher cost, paying approximately $247 million because the Massachusetts School Building Authority does not reimburse for land acquisition costs.

  LeftField Senior Project Manager Brian Dakin said the initial estimates put the cost of taking about 24 acres of the Wonderland property at about $23 million. The remaining approximately eight acres of the property could be opened to private development, bringing in tax revenue that in turn could help cover the costs of the land acquisition.

  Dakin has estimated that the new high school would be open for students by the summer of 2026.

  During Tuesday’s School Committee vote, committee member Michael Ferrante did raise some questions about the acquisition and cost of the Wonderland property, including if there has been a second appraisal of the estimated cost of purchasing or taking the property by eminent domain. “The next step is going to be getting surveys done for what the proposed new plots are going to look like, and through that process, we will be doing a second appraisal,” said Dakin, adding the second appraisal will likely be completed within the next few months.

  Ferrante also asked if the city is looking just to acquire the 24 acres needed for the high school project, or if it has considered acquiring the entire 30-acre-plus site. “I’m of the mindset that if we go in and take the entire site, we truly control our own destiny, both from a school building site position and what could happen on that site additionally,” said Mayor Brian Arrigo. “I’m certainly supportive of taking the entire site and then being able to really plan out and have the room and space to think about what the site looks like and what potential uses on that seven to eight acre portion might be developable.”

  If the city had control of the development of that portion of the land, Arrigo said, it could ensure that it is a development that fits well with a new high school building.

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