Council Begins to Mull Economic Development Options

By Sue Ellen Woodcock

Town Manager James McKenna and other have been focused on economic development in Winthrop, especially in the town center (French Square) area of town.

In addition, the town knows it will inherit the soon to be former Winthrop High/Middle School on Pauline Street later this year. McKenna explained that a decision will have to be made as to what to do with the building. Should it be the site of a business incubator? Should it be torn down? Should it be used as a place to prepare food for food trucks? Can a local college use it? The possibilities seem endless. But whatever is done it will have an impact on the town center.

“We’re going to inherit a big building and we have to know what to do with it,” McKenna told the Town Council Tuesday night. “It’s bones are strong but the educational purpose is outlived.”

Two representatives from Kopelman & Paige, experts in land use and real estate, came before the town council to discuss four options for economic development entities should the town decide to move in that direction. Attorney Mark Reich, of Kopelman & Paige, is the former city solicitor for the city of Everett and a real estate expert. His associate, Stephen Marsters Jr., specializes in procurement, real estate and general municipal government.

The four options presented include a redevelopment authority, an economic development and industrial corporation (EDIC), community development departments, or a special act (which involves state legislative approval.)

Reich explained that each entity has various levels of power.

Planning has to work with a master plan. The plan would be done through the Planning Department and the help of the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC).

A redevelopment authority is “a body politic and corporate whose powers are specifically prescribed by Chapter 121B.” It has the power to dispose of land, including the taking of real estate though eminent domain; and demolish or rehabilitate substandard structures. The RDA would be managed and controlled by five members, all town residents.

An EDIC can acquire land through eminent domain; economic development project planning and implementation; issue bonds, borrow money and invest funds. However, EDIC projects are limited to industrial and commercial development. The town council would appoint a seven-member board of directors to govern the EDIC.

Community development departments would be an entity within the town, centralized and reporting to the town’s chief executive. The CDD would have to be enacted through an ordinance.

Reich explained also that many communities have created development entities through a Special Act of the State Legislature, creating specific development goals.

“You want to see a process where the town can talk about it,” McKena said. “I feel it’s important to engage the community.”

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