By Betsy Levinson
Repercussions from the governor’s decision to include the closing of MCI-Concord in the Fiscal Year 2025 budget are still echoing among local housing groups.
The Concord Municipal Affordable Housing Trust expressed firm support to Town Manager Kerry Lafleur as she works through the finer points of the legislation that surprised the town.
Lafleur said she got a phone call from a staffer in the governor’s office the night before the announcement was made that the closure was in the budget.
“People think the town must have known something, but we did not,” said Lafleur. “Never in my wildest dreams did I think that facility would close.”
It was news, too, to the prison’s wastewater treatment facilities director, who is working with Concord Public Works Director Alan Cathcart about the future of the treatment plant.
“It was a well-kept secret,” Lafleur said.
The town manager said language in the legislation says that the state could convey the land to Concord for $1, which came as another surprise. She said the town assesses the value of MCI-Concord at north of $45 million.
The challenge in the near term will be to come up with a reuse plan that will include housing, “but not 50 acres of housing.”
“Understand there needs to be some commercial component,” she told the housing trust at a recent meeting. “We don’t know the process the state will use, at this point.”
“We want to retain our seat at the table, and to do that, we must speak with one voice and not have many different players,” said Lafleur, who said she’s heard from several groups with ideas that promote their agenda.
“I am trying to corral all that energy and excitement into one strong voice.”
Junction Village plans on hold
Lee Smith, chair of the Concord Housing Development Corporation, which owns the 12.5-acre parcel adjacent to MCI, will issue an RFP for development of parcel at the end of September to give the state and the town time to sort out the conveyance of the land.
Smith said the “best access to Junction Village would be Commonwealth Avenue.”
Lafleur said she is reaching out to MassDevelopment and the Metropolitan Area Planning Council for input on “what we think a good process would be” for redevelopment and is eager to work with the commonwealth.
“I have no reason to think the state won’t be a good partner,” she said.