Developer to present MET proposal to School Board

By Susan Mustapich | Dec 05, 2017
Photo by: Susan Mustapich The SAD 28 School Board will review a proposal to develop the MET building submitted by Michael J. Mullins.

CAMDEN — A proposal by local developer Michael Mullins to transform the Mary E. Taylor building in Camden into a "makerspace and co-working facility" will be reviewed by the SAD 28 School Board Dec. 20 at 7 p.m. at the Rockport Opera House..

Mullins' proposal for the MET building includes mixed-media studios and a fiber arts workspace on the lower level. On the main level, he envisions a welcome center, gallery and library containing volumes specially related to activities at the facility, metalworking and woodworking workspaces. The main level will also contain a junior workspace for "elementary students to learn confidence with tools and working with materials, including right-sized workbenches, tools, and materials." The upper level will offer 4,000 square feet of shared office and presentation space, conference areas, pop-up cafe, and modular assembly space for functions and events, and a 1,500-square-foot laboratory for work with computers, solar, robotics and other electronics.

Mullins is president of Mullins Management Co., a Massachusetts real estate development, management and investment firm, which, he states, operates 901 units of affordable housing, with annual revenues of $11.4 million. Mullins Management and Joseph R. Mullins Inc. have developed projects in Lowell, Mass., under the federal Historic Tax Credit program amounting to 540,000 square feet in total, including Massachusetts mills Phase III, a 70-unit mixed-income renovation of a historic mill building. Mullins owns Cranesport LLC, which operates the former MBNA garage facility on Mount Battie Street in Camden. One of the tenants in the building, DIY Garage, offers memberships to "anyone interested in automobile maintenance and repairs." Mullins also runs a small co-working space in Boston called RealIWork.

The SAD 28 School Board announced in late July that it was willing to review firm proposals to preserve, instead of demolish, the MET building when the new Camden Rockport Middle School is constructed. The announcement was in response to pressure from community members to preserve the building. The deadline for proposals was Nov. 30.

Matt Dailey, chairman of the SAD 28 School Board, confirmed in a Dec. 4 email that the board received one proposal, which was reviewed for completeness by himself, Vice-Chairman Lynda Chilton, Superintendent Maria Libby and Business Manager Cathy Murphy. A list of questions to refer to the board's legal counsel was also prepared, according to Dailey. An example of one such question is whether Maine state law permits the transfer of ownership of the building to Mullins. "Mullins will be notified if he needs to consider making any revisions to the proposal based on the answers we receive," Dailey said. The board hopes to have the questions answered before Mullins presents his proposal Dec. 20.

Purchase and renovation

Mullins is offering to purchase the shell of the MET building for $100,000 and to initially complete repairs estimated at $300,000.

"The plan is to use the building in much of its existing configuration, so as to reduce up-front construction costs. This will be greatly aided by the good condition of most of the finished and structural systems. Further improvements to the building, including renovation, fixtures and equipment will be done on an iterative basis."

Ownership

The proposed ownership of the MET building is called Camden Workplace L3C, which Mullins explains is a low-profit limited liabiity corporation, based on Vermont state laws. Camden Workplace L3C will be a Vermont corporation and also will register in Maine. It will operate according to the Vermont laws that require it to: accomplish one or more charitable or educational purposes; it does not have a signficant purpose of producing income or appreciating property (though both are allowed), and does not exist to accomplish one or more political or legislative purposes. The L3C "low profit" is defined in the proposal as "intended to allow the entity to raise private capital to accomplish its mission, while earning a return that exceeds inflation, and is less than or equal to 7 percent."

Financing

Mullins will contribute $200,000 in capital, and will solicit an additional $250,000 in "at-large member capital." The project will seek $180,000 in historic tax credits and raise $100,000 in debt financing.

Camden Workplace will offer memberships to the public "at a variety of price levels for part-time or full-time access to one or more programmatic offerings, with monthly memberships ranging from $20 to $250."

Comments (4)
Posted by: Michael Mullins | Dec 08, 2017 23:01

Hi Dale, I am the proponent.  In short, the building is safe for schoolchildren now.  So the plan would be to setup new electric service and heating, and preserve it much as you see it today.

Other potential uses, such as office, or residential, would require extensive renovations.  The floor plan works well for what we are planning, so the capital costs are a lot less, and they need to be in order for us to keep the cost of membership and educational programs affordable to the community.

 

MM



Posted by: Alison S McKellar | Dec 06, 2017 11:40

In response to the concerns about the difference between the cost of renovations proposed by the school district, as opposed to the amount proposed by the developer to adapt the MET building, it's sort of an apples and oranges comparison... although on its face, i can see why it raises eyebrows.

Thr majority of the major issues with the current middle school are found in the other wings of the facility. If you read the 2014 report from Oak Point, it goes through the whole complex, wing by wing, and details the issues. The MET portion of the building does not suffer from the roof and structural problems that some of the other parts of the building have, and the MET portion alone doesn't have enough space for the middle school population (along with many other variables to númerous to get into here).

There are many building code standards that have to be met for a school that can be avoided by a private developer, depending on the way the building is renovated.

For the school district alone, it was determined that we'd be better off starting over  and building a new school. This was approved overwhelmingly. However many of us felt that the MET portion could be saved and should be offered to a private buyer in an effort to preserve the historic structure and save the taxpayers some money. Instead of taxpayers spending $200,000 to tear that portion of the building down, the school district will be paid $100,000 to leave it up, a net gain of $300,000.

Certainly there are many details to be worked out, but it's a pretty exciting proposal that would offer a unique opportunity to many community members and potentially help fill a gap in the curriculum that was lost when Industrial Arts education was phased out. The renovations that are proposed here are of a much different nature than what would have been required for school district use.

 

 

 

 



Posted by: Dale Hayward | Dec 06, 2017 10:13

Just like how buildings become obsolete to get a new one, oh wait, this is what is happening here. Good show. Just like wanting a new sewage treatment plant to replace one where maintenance appears to not have been kept up. Or, no allowance was made sufficient to replace the old. Oh, well, I will hear about this I am sure. All the bases will be covered.



Posted by: Dale E. Landrith Sr. | Dec 06, 2017 08:00

It was going to cost millions of dollars to renovate the MET building when proposed by SAD 28.  The roof needed extensive repairs, elevator update was required, and the heating system was deficient. Someone needs to explain how a private developer can make the building safe and able to be utilized for children for $300,000 as opposed to the millions that was recently provided to the voters.



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