EASTHAM — The final version of the annual town meeting warrant posted on May 28 has a surprising twist: voters at the June 12 meeting will be asked to authorize the purchase of Town Center Plaza at 4550 Route 6 in North Eastham.
The 3.536-acre parcel, valued at $1,137,800 according to the town assessor, includes a five-unit 10,381-square-foot strip mall, currently occupied by Town Center Liquors, Nauset Ice Cream, and two restaurants: Royal Thai and Local Break. A fifth unit is currently vacant. A separate 1,511-square-foot building is currently home to the ARTichoke Boutique, and a 672-square-foot office building is occupied by Foran Real Estate.
The town was contacted by representatives of Town Center Plaza LLC, the owner, offering it the opportunity to purchase the property before it is listed for sale on the open market.
“I call it a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Town Administrator Jacqui Beebe, “and it is — because this is the first time it’s been for sale in 80 years.”
The select board met in executive session on May 11 to authorize Beebe to enter into an agreement to purchase the property. Town meeting approval would be a condition of any agreement.
As of May 31, a purchase price had not been determined. Beebe said the article could be presented to voters with either an exact figure or an “up to” amount.
“It’s an important piece of property for the town, it being kind of the heart of the area, almost like our own little downtown,” select board chair Jamie Demetri told the Independent. “To have that be in the hands of the town, I think, is really important.
“It also affords us the ability to work closely with the businesses that are already there — to offer them a program where they can stay, guaranteed for an amount of time, and also plan for the future with them as well,” said Demetri.
According to a press release sent out on May 31, many of the businesses have had month-to-month leases and would “welcome the opportunity to start with two-year leases,” which could be extended, should it take longer for the town to make a long-range plan for the parcel. “The town will support them and will work with them as partners to make sure they stay here in Eastham,” the release stated.
Local Break Restaurant owner Mac Gallant said the proposal had the support of the plaza’s tenants. “It’s very exciting,” said Gallant.
Kate Escher-Jacob, who owns ARTichoke with her sister, Lizzy Kearing, agreed with Gallant. “It’s almost a best-case scenario,” said Escher-Jacob of the purchase by the town. “It’s nice knowing that the town still wants to work with the existing retailers and people inside the plaza.”
In addition to strategically controlling development in the area, Beebe noted, the purchase would protect “six very beloved local businesses.”
“Losing six in one fell swoop would be pretty devastating for us,” said Beebe.
Beebe said debt service for the purchase would be paid through short-term rental-tax receipts. According to the press release, rental revenue from the property would mitigate the loss of property tax revenue.
While the article asks voters to “authorize the Select Board to acquire by purchase, gift, eminent domain, or otherwise,” Beebe said the property would be purchased. “The land will not be acquired by eminent domain — that term is included in the warrant article as general legal language as an option, but it is not the option the town will pursue,” the press release stated.
Pre-town meeting via Zoom is scheduled for Thursday, June 3, from 6 to 8 p.m. Town meeting at the Nauset Regional High School football field is scheduled for Saturday, June 12 starting at 10 a.m.