MBTA backs off on Boston Prep school’s $1.5m offer, puts Mattapan Square parking lot back on market

In response to strong opposition from local elected officials, the MBTA has turned down an offer from Boston Preparatory Charter School, a Hyde Park-based charter school, to buy a parcel adjacent to the Mattapan Station trolley stop currently used as a parking lot.

The MBTA will re-issue a Request for Proposals (RFP) before the end of March, according to agency spokesperson Joe Pesaturo, a move that will allow the community to vet potential bidders, including Boston Prep should the charter school submit a bid. This vetting stage was not part of the discussion when Boston Prep offered to buy the property.

“That RFP makes sure that this is done in a transparent process so that residents of Mattapan can see the process by which the parcel changes hands to whoever wins the RFP,” said state Rep. Dan Cullinane, whose district includes the parcel. “That transparency is incredibly important.”

Boston Prep approached the MBTA in 2013 to purchase the lot for $1.5 million and build a new school there. However, the negative response to any such deal, primarily from local elected officials, gave the MBTA pause, and on Tuesday the agency confirmed that it will issue a new RFP.

“Local elected officials have expressed a desire to see something more in line with a residential and/or commercial development at that location,” Pesaturo said on Tuesday.

Cullinane and state Sen. Linda Dorcena Forry were the two most vocal opponents to the deal.

“It’s one of the last buildable lots that we have in Mattapan Square and it just makes total sense,” said Dorcena Forry. “I’ve been working with the community for a long time and it’s always been the idea to have a transit-oriented development at that site with commercial and housing above.”

For years, the MBTA has sought a buyer for the 1.75 acre lot off River Street who could develop or lease the site. Twice, in 2007 and again in 2012, the MBTA issued RFPs, receiving one bid in 2007 from a community development corporation that fell through in 2008 as the economy bottomed out.

Now, with the economy back on track and a bustling Mattapan Square coming into view, the two legislators believe a new bidding process can attract development opportunities that simply were not around in 2012.

Dorcena Forry said she is reaching out to developers of projects in other parts of her district, which also includes South Boston and Dorchester, who have successfully executed transit-oriented projects. “If you look at Ashmont Station, for instance, and the Carruth building, that’s the whole idea of transit-oriented development and that was a perfect model. What they did was incredible.”

Boston Prep Executive Director Sharon Liszanckie said in a previous interview with the Reporter that she saw the Mattapan Square site as convenient not only in terms of transit, but also as a place close to the students the school serves. The school will be able to submit a bid as part of the new process.

Liszanckie said on Tuesday night that she had no comment about Boston Prep’s decisions going forward.

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