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Site selection for new high school weeks away

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  The Revere High School Building Committee will be making its final recommendation on the site for a new high school next month.

  During last Tuesday night’s School Committee, representatives from owner’s project manager Leftfield and project architect Perkins Eastman gave an extensive update to the committee on the progress of the building project. The final site selection is down to building on the current high school site or on the Wonderland property. The high school option would see the construction of a new building on the current Erricola Field, with the current high school then being demolished to replicate the playing fields on that portion of the property. In addition, the building committee is considering a high school plan that could include the renovation of the current field house in addition to a new building, rather than building the gym into the new high school. However, Dakin said that option could severely impact high school sports for close to two years, since the field house would be inaccessible.

  Each option would see a new high school open for students in the summer of 2026, according to Brian Dakin of Leftfield.

  Dakin highlighted some of the benefits and disadvantages of each site, as well as potential overall costs of the project and the cost to the city. All three building options come in at an initial cost estimate of over $400 million, according to Dakin, but those numbers will be revised in the coming months as a site is selected and schematic planning gets underway for the selected option. “We’re confident that by the time we are picking one of these, we can get all of these options under $400 million and the cost to Revere will be in the $230 million to $250 million range,” said Dakin.

  Revere has a Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) grant that will reimburse the city 76 percent of the building cost, but Dakin said there are a number of caveats to that reimbursement number. For example, Dakin said there are a number of caps on reimbursement levels for site work, which he said will be extensive at the current high school site. The MSBA also does not reimburse for land acquisition, which would be a major expense with the Wonderland site, which would have to be either purchased from the current owner or taken by eminent domain.

  “We are carrying $23 million for land acquisition for the acreage that we need to put the school there,” said Dakin.

  He said the city has been in constant touch with the Wonderland property owners, and he added that a new school will likely need about 25 of the 33 acres on the site. Dakin said the remaining acreage could be privately developed, and that the tax revenue from that development could potentially help pay for the cost of the Wonderland land acquisition over a number of years.

  When all is said and done, Dakin said, the actual reimbursement amount from the state for either building project will be closer to 40 percent of the total cost.

  The advantages of building on the current high school site include not having to pay for the land acquisition, as would be the case at Wonderland, and it would be the most cost-effective option, according to Dakin. He said the location is also better for pedestrians and bikes. Disadvantages include the disruption to school operations for up to five years and the temporary loss of the use of Erricola Park and Ambrose Field, which would be used for temporary parking over that time period.

  The advantages of the Wonderland site, according to Dakin, include the ability to use the current high school building down the road as a new middle school or community center and the lack of disruptions to school operations. Disadvantages include it being the more expensive option and that it is farther from the center of the community.

  January will be a key month for the project, with a presentation scheduled before the City Council on Jan. 10 and a public forum on Jan. 12. The Revere High School Building Committee will make its site recommendation on Jan. 13, with votes by the School Committee scheduled for Jan. 18 and the City Council on Jan. 24.

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