PROVINCETOWN — A pending land sale will likely require two of the three companies wanting to build affordable housing here to adjust their plans downward.
The town’s request for proposals for the former VFW site included an advisory of an adjacent private lot for sale that could be used to “maximize the building area and provide an additional egress.” Two of the three bidders submitted plans that included that parcel, 55R Captain Bertie’s Way. But that property is now under contract to someone else, according to select board member Leslie Sandberg.
“We lost an opportunity to purchase the land adjacent to the VFW,” Sandberg said at the Aug. 23 select board meeting. “It’s under contract for market [rate] housing. When an opportunity like that arises, we need to move faster than we were able to.”
The two bids affected are the ones with the largest number of units. Pennrose proposed 64 units on the 1.3-acre VFW site at 3 Jerome Smith Road and the half-acre parcel at 55R Captain Bertie’s Way. Its official bid says that “understanding the Town’s stated desire for a ‘high density’ proposal, we felt the best way to provide a critical mass of units with a realistic amount of parking was to assume the acquisition of the adjacent parcel.”
The Community Builders wrote in its bid that “including the adjacent parcel … opens up valuable opportunities to more effectively balance the Town’s multiple goals — allowing us to increase the number of affordable units and improve circulation within the site.” That bid was for 57 units. It also said that “our preliminary analysis for the development of only the 3 Jerome Smith site showed a schema with approximately 47 units.”
The third bidder, Commonwealth Community Developers, was the only one to submit a plan for just the 3 Jerome Smith site. That bid was for 46 units.
The town’s RFP specified a minimum of 44 units and said that “should be considered a base number with preferred consideration for additional density.”
Paul and Victoria Mendes have owned 55R, which is directly behind their home, for almost 30 years. Paul Mendes said, “I’m usually quite vocal, but I really can’t comment.” Asked if the town had approached him with a purchase offer, he added, “That would have been a conversation between the realtors and the town. They’ve handled that property for four years.”
The listing agent, Joe DeMartino of Pat Shultz Real Estate, said, “We approached the town and had very, very, very preliminary discussions about the parcel. We were told the town was awaiting an RFP,” which the town issued in late May. Those conversations “never became advanced, and the town never made an offer per se,” DeMartino added.
DeMartino said he could not comment on whether the town or the affordable housing bidders had the opportunity to make counteroffers. Details of the contract are also not public. The property has a list price on patshultz.com of $1.75 million.
The Community Builders wrote in their bid that “TCB is currently in active negotiations to put the 55R Captain Bertie’s Way parcel under an Option to Purchase for $1,300,000.”
“Inclusion of the adjacent parcel will of course be contingent on further discussions with the Town and community,” the bid document continues, “as well as satisfactory negotiations with the adjacent property owner.”
This raises the possibility that the affordable housing developers may simply have been outbid.
Both developers wrote that they were seeking some financing from the town, however. Pennrose wrote that “we would look to work with the Town on finding local CPA funds/bond proceeds to fund the acquisition” of 55R.
This raises another possibility — that the developers and the town were waiting on each other. The developers may have wanted to know what the town was willing to help pay. The town may have been waiting to see how the developers planned to use the extra land. The bids themselves weren’t actually opened until July 29 — six weeks ago — revealing that the two bids that included the adjacent parcel contained 11 to 18 more apartments than the one bid without it.
Charlie Adams, regional vice president of Pennrose, learned that 55R Captain Bertie’s Way was under contract when the Independent contacted him on Sept. 7.
“I wasn’t aware of that — it’s news to me,” said Adams. Pennrose had not been in active conversations with the listing agents, he said. Negotiations to purchase “were going to be down the road,” said Adams.
“No conversations took place between the town and Mendes or anyone involved [with 55R], at least since I’ve been here,” said Town Manager Alex Morse, who began working for Provincetown in April 2021.
Taken together, the comments of DeMartino, Adams, and Morse suggest that the conversation had not advanced far enough to even reach the question of price.
“It’s very unfortunate that that piece of land that we all knew about was not pursued,” said select board member Louise Venden at the Aug. 23 meeting. “We are going to do the best we can with what we have.”
Morse sounded a more optimistic note. “Things are advancing as planned,” he wrote to the Independent. “We are glad to see three strong proposals for housing on this site and we are moving forward with the next step in the process.”
The next step includes a committee that will review the bids. TCB’s bid includes some clear indications of how its project would look without 55R Captain Bertie’s Way; Pennrose’s bid does not.
“It’s up to the town how they want to proceed,” Adams told the Independent.