UMass hires broker to sell Bayside site

This map shows the 20-acre parcel in relation to other nearby Columbia Point sites. UMBA image

The University of Massachusetts will offer a select group of developers the chance to buy the former grounds of the Bayside Expo Center in Dorchester this year in a deal that could net the university a windfall sum.

The university’s building authority has hired a commercial real estate broker — Newmark Knight Frank— to seek potential buyers or partners for the 20 acre waterfront parcel— prime Columbia Point real estate that UMass scooped up for $18 million back in 2010. The news of the broker was first reported by the Globe.

Last summer, the UMass Building Authority (UMBA) issued a “Request for Information” to developers in the region — a request that triggered an impressive response by the October deadline. Sixteen companies indicated an interest in buying or partnering with UMass to redevelop the site.

The contents of the developer responses were sealed— and have not been made public, so there is no way to know for certain what was included in the range of concepts or more specific proposals. UMass had indicated that they wanted to hear ideas that would transform the Bayside site into “an oceanfront Boston neighborhood” that melds with campus needs and the broader Columbia Point area, a “gateway to UMass Boston,” according to the RFI.

A number of the 16 respondents are familiar names on the Point. Corcoran Jennison owns the adjacent office building and DoubleTree hotel. Beacon Capital Partners purchased the nearby 12-acre Santander property in March. Capstone Development Partners is already working with the university on its first ever dormitories on Boston campus.

In a statement last year, Meehan said the response “affirms that there is strong interest from the real estate community in the site.”

“That is good news, because as fiduciaries the university and UMBA have a responsibility to maximize the revenue potential of any development for the purpose of addressing significant capital needs on the UMass Boston campus,” he said.

Today, UMass spokesman Jeff Cournoyer called the new broker arrangement "an offering memorandum."

“This is the first step in a multi-stage marketing process," Cournoyer said. "First the initial respondents will be informed of an opportunity at the site and then a broader market push goes out to everyone.”

Engaging a commercial broker to market the property marks a milestone in the university’s strategy for the Bayside site, which it acquired in 2010.

Initially, the university indicated that it intended to redevelop the site on its own to expand its campus footprint and for parking. Then, the site’s future became murkier when it was identified as the potential site of an Olympic Athletes Village, a notion that fell by the wayside after Boston abandoned its bid for the 2024 summer games.

More recently, the Bayside site sat in limbo as football mogul Robert Kraft set his sights on potentially acquiring or leasing the land to build a 20,000 seat sports stadium. The Kraft group later said it spent “millions of dollars” designing the stadium and probing the site itself, but UMass and Kraft abandoned their talks — and declared the deal "dead"— last year amid sharp criticism about the secretive talks.

The full list of the 16 respondents who responded to last year's RFI are: Accordia Partners; American Campus Communities; Beacon Capital Partners; Bracken Development; Capstone Development Partners LLC & Samuels & Associates; Corcoran Jennison & BTUHWF Building Corp; Core Investment Inc.; Hunt Development Group, LLC & Drew Company Inc.; The HYM Investment Group, LLC; LendLease; Lincoln Property Company; Lupoli Companies; Rhino Capital & Ad Meliora; SKANSKA; University Student Living; and Waterstone Properties Group Inc.

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