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Proposal to buy old Genest's Bakery property gets sent back to committee for review

New Hampshire Union Leader

February 06. 2018 11:29PM

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

MANCHESTER — Aldermen voted Tuesday to send a proposal the city received for the former site of Genest’s Bakery back to committee for additional review, after a second suitor for the property expressed concerns over how its response to a request for proposals was interpreted.

The motion, which passed on an 8-4 vote, sends a proposal for the former site of Genest’s Bakery the city received from Tokena Corporation back to the Aldermanic Committee for Lands and Buildings for further discussion.

Voting in favor were aldermen Kevin Cavanaugh, Will Stewart, Tim Baines, Chris Herbert, Dan O’Neil, Bill Shea, Bill Barry, and Normand Gamache. Opposed were Elizabeth Moreau, Tony Sapienza, John Cataldo and Keith Hirschmann. Alderman at Large Joseph Kelly Levasseur abstained, and Alderman Barbara Shaw of Ward 9 was absent.

In January, members of the Aldermanic Committee on Lands and Buildings held a nonpublic session to review responses to the city’s request for proposals to redevelop 630 Harvard St., site of the former Genest’s Bakery, then came back into open session to recommend a proposal for the site submitted by Tokena Corporation, headed up by former state Sen. Tom DeBlois.

The city took title to the building — considered for years a neighborhood blight by South End residents — in May as compensation for years of unpaid taxes totaling nearly $804,000.

The building was constructed in 1933 and has — at various times — housed a book bindery, a metal shop, a metal sculptor and a taxidermy shop.

On Tuesday, ahead of a scheduled vote by the full board on Tokena’s proposal, attorney John Cronin addressed the aldermen, representing Custom Architectural Design Management, LLC, a five-member multi-company development team and the second group to submit a proposal for the property — said his client was surprised to learn the Tokena proposal contained a purchase price lower than what CADM offered.

According to documents provided to city aldermen, Tokena’s proposal came in at $225,000 for the property as is, while the CADM proposal came in at $275,000 — but carried a list of concerns the proposed buyers had with the site, including a list of requested improvements they would like to see performed by the city.

“We put together an RFP that was responsive to the request,” said Cronin. “At the end of the RFP we asked to have the opportunity to negotiate with the city. I was surprised there was no engagement. I think it was shortsighted.”

The list of requests outlined by CADM include having the city remove all debris and items from the property, the city remove all graffiti from the building exterior, and that Manchester police patrol the site in the evening during construction.

Cronin said he felt the list of “concerns” may have been misinterpeted by committee members as “conditions” put upon the CADM proposal.

“I sit on that committee, and I think it’s a good idea to send it back if there was some miscommunication,” said Cavanaugh.

“According to attorney Cronin, these aren’t conditions they are concerns,” said Barry. “I feels to me as if they were penalized for answering the question if they had any concerns.”

DeBlois also addressed the board, saying he “played by the rules” and his proposal was chosen for the site, referring to the work Tokena Corporation did after purchasing the former St. Joseph Regional Junior High School building for $525,000 in November 2015 and renovating it.

“A lot of people know my reputation buying old, dilapidated buildings around Manchester and building them up,” said DeBlois. “I would ask the BMA not to return my bid. I played by the rules, and I intend to win. I received a purchase and sales agreement today, and I intend to sign it.”

“To give people a second chance after you already know the other guy’s bid is ludicrous,” said Sapienza. “To go back after picking a project is way too late, and the idea that it wasn’t a condition, it was a request ... I just think it’s disingenuous.”

The matter is now referred back to committee. Aldermen were unsure Tuesday night if a new RFP would be issued for the property.

Manchester Local and County Government