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City mulls proposal for grocery store in East Cambridge garage

Posted by Brock Parker  October 8, 2013 12:36 PM

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The developer buying the old Middlesex Courthouse from the state is seeking to lease more than a third of the spots in a neighboring parking garage owned by the city and is also hoping to open a grocery at the location.

Boston-based Leggat McCall Properties, which buying the 22-story former courthouse on Thorndike Street, is asking the city to make 420 parking spaces and some first floor retail space available for a long term lease at the First Street garage.

Robert Dickey, an executive vice president for Leggat McCall, told the city council Monday that in addition to providing parking for the planned reuse of the old courthouse, the developer believes renovated space on the first floor of the garage would be attractive to a number of grocery store operators.

“We strongly believe that that the ground floor of the garage could be transformed into an active use that draws people to First Street,” Dickey said.

The state Division of Capital Asset Management agreed in December to sell the old courthouse building to Leggat, which wants to renovate the building into 18 floors of office space, along with more than 20 apartments, ground floor retail and some parking spots within the complex.

The courthouse opened in 1974, but the Middlesex Superior Court and the Cambridge District Court moved out several years ago because of asbestos problems in the building. The Middlesex Jail is also planning to move out of the building.

City officials said the garage has been underutilized and has had a significant drop in revenue since the courts moved out.

But before Cambridge can lease a portion of the neighboring garage, which has 1,100 parking spaces, the city would have to have the property appraised and would have to issue a request for proposals in which Leggat McCall and other parties interested in the garage could submit a bid. The city would then hold public meetings and select the winning bidder.

Deputy City Manager Lisa Peterson said the city anticipates the process could take six to eight months.

The City Council voted unanimously Monday to make a portion of the garage available for disposition through a long term lease.

City Councilor Tim Toomey said he thought Leggat McCall’s proposal to put a grocery store in the first floor of the garage would be beneficial to the neighborhood.

“I think this has great potential,” Toomey said.

--brock.globe@gmail.com

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