By Debra Parkhurst
Members of the Depot Park Advisory Committee came to the Selectmen on February 29 to discuss the RFP (Request for Proposal) process for tenants of the Passenger Depot at Depot Park, as current leases expire in December 2016. Chairman Joe Piantedosi explained their goals are to maintain the building’s historical character, maximize revenue to offset costs, and attract long-term tenants. The Committee would also like to maintain the present configuration, consisting of two floors and basement storage. The use is non-residential and should be consistent with the historical character of this area. There are limitations on the building and the site due to its historical aspect, as the Committee learned when a restaurateur was interested. All four units are currently rented.
Understanding that preserving the historical character of the Passenger Depot is a major goal, the Selectmen noted that architectural studies have indicated that the second story was not an original component. There has been interest in restoring it to a single story. Piantedosi noted that removing the second floor would eliminate more than half the square footage available for rent. As explained during the original inception, the rent pays for operating expenses and some capital costs. Lost rent would need to be recovered. There would also be loss of revenue during construction as well as significant construction costs.
Selectman Caroline Fedele commented that there is currently an on-going discussion about a historical museum for the Town and wondered about the usefulness of long- term leases at this time. While the town often advocates for long- term leases, the impacts of this should be considered when approaching the crafting of the current RFP.
Resident and tenant Donna Waghorne, representing the Bedford Glass Cooperative, spoke on behalf of the tenants, noting investments made by a first floor business. She also said that as a taxpayer, she would not want to see the second floor removed.
Selectmen Mike Rosenberg suggested returning to this issue at a future meeting to see if there is a compelling reason to restore the interior to a single story structure.