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Bidders for Genest's Bakery property told to submit 'best and final' offers

New Hampshire Union Leader

March 07. 2018 12:03AM

The former Genest's Bakery on Harvard Street in Manchester. (UNION LEADER FILE)

MANCHESTER — City aldermen voted Tuesday to have both bidders for the former Genest’s Bakery site submit their “best, highest and final” offers for the property to the city solicitor for a final vote on the matter in two weeks.

The vote came after a motion to support the proposal recommended last month by members of the Aldermanic Committee on Lands and Buildings failed.

Committee members voted in January to recommend a proposal from Tokena Corporation for 630 Harvard St., site of the former Genest’s Bakery, despite suggestions from some aldermen the city missed a step when reviewing responses to requests for proposals for the property.

The city received just two responses to an RFP for the site — one from Tokena Corporation, headed up by former state Sen. Tom DeBlois, and one from Custom Architectural Design Management (CADM), LLC, a five-member multi-company development team.

The city took title to the building last year as compensation for years of unpaid taxes totaling nearly $804,000. The building was constructed in 1933 and has housed a book bindery, a metal shop, a metal sculptor and a taxidermy shop.

Aldermen voted last month to send the recommendation for the Tokena proposal back to committee, after attorney John Cronin expressed concern that a list of requests outlined by CADM in its response — including having the city remove all debris and items from the property, having the city remove all graffiti from the building’s exterior, and having Manchester police patrol the area in the evening during construction — may have been misinterpreted by committee members as “conditions” put upon the CADM proposal.

Committee members voted 3-1 to stick with their initial recommendation of Tokena’s proposal.

One thing is very clear with my comittee and myself,” said Alderman Barbara Shaw, chairman of the Lands and Buildings Committee. “We analyzed the information that was presented to us, and we made a decision. We have done our due diligence. We have made our decision. We are not going backwards and opening up this whole process again.”

“I don’t have a dog in this fight,” said Alderman Bill Shea of Ward 7, where the property is located. “I’m not favoring one company or the other company. I just think economic development of that property is what’s best for that neighborhood.”

“I think this got lost because it got treated like a vacant piece of land,” said Alderman-at-Large Dan O’Neil. “It should have been handled as an economic development opportunity.”

City Solicitor Emily Rice said her office believes the committee handled the RFP process appropriately.

“It’s our opinion that there wasn’t any, hasn’t been any legal defect up until this point,” said Rice.

“I’m not interested in beating a dead horse,” said Cronin on Tuesday. “What’s happened in the past is in the past. I think we have a good offer, and we’d like the opportunity to purchase the property.”

The motion to accept Tokena’s proposal for the site failed on a 6-7 vote, with aldermen Kevin Cavanaugh, Will Stewart, Tim Baines, Chris Herbert, O’Neil, Shea, and Barry opposed. Aldermen Tony Sapienza, Elizabeth Moreau, John Cataldo, Shaw, Normand Gamache and Keith Hirschmann voted in favor. Alderman-at- Large Joseph Kelly Levasseur abstained.

On a motion by Cavanaugh, the board approved having both Tokena and CADM submit their highest, best and final offers for the site to the city solicitor’s office within a week. The bids will be reviewed, then brought before the board for a final vote in two weeks.

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