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City Council weighs in on new high school project

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  With the possible selection of a new Revere High School site just weeks away, the City Council got a look at the options that are still on the table at Monday night’s meeting. As they did at a School Committee meeting late in December 2021, representatives from the owner’s project manager, LeftField, and project architect, Perkins Eastman, ran down the history of the project and provided more details about the options still being considered by the Revere High School Building Committee.

  Those remaining options basically boil down to building on Erricola Park fields next to the existing high school, and then replicating those fields once the current high school is demolished, or building on the Wonderland park site. One variation of the current high school site option includes gutting and renovating the existing field house on the site.

  “We are at the point of the feasibility study where the project has to pick what is called the preferred option,” said Brian Dakin, the project manager from LeftField. “Basically pick the site, pick the preferred option of the school that will get studied further moving forward.”

  In the coming weeks, Dakin said, the building committee will make a recommendation for a site and option which will then be brought forward for approval by the School Committee and the City Council. Regardless of the option, Dakin said, students should be in a new high school building in the summer of 2026.

  Preliminary figures show a cost of between $375 million to $395 million for each option, according to Dakin. While the city is eligible for a reimbursement rate from the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) of up to 79 percent, there are caps in place and items not eligible for reimbursement – that means the total project cost picked up by the state will likely be closer to 40 percent, said Dakin.

  The price tag to the city for building on the existing site would be about $231 million, with the cost lowered to $223 million if the field house is renovated. However, Dakin said, renovating the field house could effectively knock any indoor athletic space for the high school out of commission for up to two years.

  The Wonderland option has a lower overall price tag, but the city would have to pay approximately $247 million because the MSBA does not reimburse for land acquisition costs. Dakim said the initial estimates put the cost of taking about 24 acres of the Wonderland property at about $23 million. The owners would then be able to develop the remaining Wonderland parcel of under 10 acres.

  Dakim also laid out what the project team feels are some of the advantages and disadvantages of each option. “We feel that some of the advantages [of all new construction at the current site] is that there is no new land acquisition that is required; the existing traffic routes, for better or worse, are maintained,” said Dakim. “It is, comparatively, the most pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly location; it is located in the heart of the community. Even though we would lose access to those fields during construction … they would be redeveloped at the end of the project.”

  The disadvantages for the all-new construction on the existing site include the relocation process through the state for the park, the existing building would be demolished and not retained for a future middle school, and it would disrupt on-campus activities for four to five years, as well as abutters.

  Building primarily new but keeping the field house is the most cost-effective option, Dakim said. “You get rewarded a little bit for keeping the space, and you are still getting the benefit of the MSBA participating in demo and abatement,” said Dakim. He added that the renovated field house would be 5,000 to 10,000 square feet larger than would be allowed by the MSBA for building a new athletic facility within the new building.

  “The flip side is that the athletic space is not open for a year plus until the new school opens, and we have to renovate our way in there,” Dakim said. “Ultimately, permanently the athletics is a little disconnected from the heart of the school.”

  At Wonderland, Dakim said, the advantages include maintaining the existing high school site and building as a viable option for a future middle school or community center, and there would be no disruptions to school operations during construction. The disadvantages of Wonderland include it being the costliest option for the city and it leads to the possibility of lost tax revenues from the future private development of the entire parcel. Dakim said there are also many people who view the Wonderland site as a harder spot to get to than the current high school.

  Following last Monday’s presentation, councillors asked some questions about the site, focusing on traffic as well as overall future growth of the school system. A City Council subcommittee will have a further discussion of the options and the overall project on Jan. 24, City Council President Gerry Visconti said.

  Ward 4 Councillor Patrick Keefe was among the councillors who pointed out that there could be a potential cost savings at the Wonderland site if the city decided to cut back on the new fields for that site and use the fields at the current high school.

  Ward 2 Councillor Ira Novoselsky said he believes keeping the existing high school for a future middle school would be a good idea, and that building on Wonderland means the city wouldn’t lose parkland for up to seven years.

  Councillor-at-Large Dan Rizzo said he is glad that the most recent plans for building at the current high school do not include the takings of any surrounding properties by eminent domain.

  “I can’t stress enough the importance of all three committees being aligned and agreeing to a site,” said Visconti. “We’ve been on this path of trying to get on the [MSBA] list for … five years. Now that we are on it, and I know that it is a big dollar to spend, but I can’t stress the importance for the city to make this happen, and we all be aligned to get this done, because not having it is not an option, to be honest with you.”





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