36 Firms Eye New School Project

posted Sep 18, 2018, 1:46 PM by Maria Puglisi

From the Gloucester Daily Times, 9/19/18

School officials have not decided whether to renovate, expand or build a new elementary school in East Gloucester, perhaps merged with Veterans Memorial, yet no fewer than three dozen companies have called for the package to submit bids to design the project. 

"That's a good sign," said Kathy Clancy, a member of the School and School Building committees. "The real telling thing will be seeing how many turn around and submit bids, but maybe the flexibility of the project at this point is intriguing to some of these (companies), and (competitive bidding) may be a real plus for us."

The city posted the request for proposals Sept. 5 and city and school officials set open the bids Friday, Sept. 21, and begin to make their choice.

Schools Superintendent Richard Safier said he "couldn't speculate" on reasons for the rush to take out bidding packages, and representatives from several companies failed to return calls seeking comment. But companies from Toronto and Cincinnati have joined nearly two dozen from Eastern Massachusetts and others from around New England calling for bid packages, according to postings on the city's website.

The posting calls for a designer to "conduct a feasibility study to develop (and) evaluate potential alternative solutions ..." and adds that a "contract may be amended to include designer services through design development, construction contract documents, bidding, award of construction contract(s), construction administration, final closeout and warranty period of the potential project."

"A potential project may include a renovation of the existing school, a renovation of and addition to the existing school and/or new construction," the post notes.

"These designers are architects and engineers, and they are aware of the expectations of the (Massachusetts School Building Authority) for a comprehensive review of all potential options," Safier said, referring to the state agency that helps communities coordinate school building projects and provides reimbursement for new schools or significant renovations.

Among the companies seeking a bidding package is Newburyport-based Dore & Whittier Architects. The company designed the $39 million West Parish Elementary School and is serving as project manager for construction of a proposed new Memorial Elementary School in Manchester.  Safier, however, said the bidding process for designing a new East Gloucester school is "wide open" to all bidders.

The designer chosen to carry out the East Gloucester feasibility and design study will be working with a new owner's project manager hired by the city in July. CBRE/Heery was chosen as project manager at a cost of $285,102. CBRE/Heery has a Burlington office among its 19 offices across the U.S. and has not worked with Gloucester on a major construction project in the past.

The City Council approved borrowing up to $1 million to cover all costs of a feasibility study for the project, though Safier and other officials have expressed hope that the actual cost will be less.

The MSBA and Gloucester schools' time frame for the East Gloucester project calls for securing a designer by Oct. 16. Safier said his sense would likely be to let the design firm "lead the entire feasibility study," including a choice of a potential site.

The School Committee endorsed a proposal in 2016 calling for merging the existing East Goucester and Veterans Memorial elementary schools into one, new facility then building a new school to accommodate a more than 400-student enrollment on a site within The Pines, an East Gloucester conservation area owned mostly by the city. But that site drew almost immediate neighborhood opposition.

Other sites on the front burner include the existing East Gloucester school property, which extends down the hill toward East Main Street and could handle an expanded building, and a portion of the Green Street playground, Safier and Clancy indicated. Other potential sites are on city-owned land at the top of Harrison Avenue, and off Eastern Avenue closer to the Rockport line, though they are considered more "doubtful," Safier said.

Safier cautioned that the city's choice of designers may not be as open as the early requests for proposals seem. He noted that a "walk-through" for potential bidders at the current East Gloucester school on Tuesday drew just a half-dozen contractors. When the first bid packages were posted for the Fuller School property in late 2015, more than 30 companies called for the application forms, yet only the partnership of the Cape Ann YMCA, Windover Construction and Sam Park and Company submitted a bid.

"You never know how these things will play out," Safier said, "but we are on track, we're following the MSBA's schedule, and we're ready to go ahead as expeditiously as we can."