It’s now official: the town’s 56 acres of commercial land in South Sandwich is up for sale. A formal request was issued Wednesday to potential buyers asking them to submit their plans and proposals.
The town’s acres are part of the larger commercial track called South Sandwich Village Center, formerly known as the Golden Triangle, that stretches from the intersection of Route 130 and Quaker Meetinghouse Road up to the intersection of Route 130 and Cotuit Road.
Sandwich developer Thomas Tsakalos currently owns the majority of the commercial developments inside that larger parcel, including Heritage, Canterbury, and Tradewinds plazas. His holdings there also include 24 acres of undeveloped land that abuts the town’s property now up for sale.
In July, the Cape Cod Commission voted to approve entering into a Development Agreement with Mr. Tsakalos and the town for the development of these 24 acres as well as the redevelopment of his existing properties. Development Agreements are especially attractive for large scale projects because once the agreement is in place and all of the impacts of the project have been addressed, it allows the project to be developed or redeveloped over a period of 10 or 20 years without having to go through the Cape Cod Commission’s DRI process at each and every phase.
It did not take long for Mr. Tsakalos to indicate his intention to purchase the town-owned land, which he could roll into that Development Agreement, if he is selected as the winning bidder.
“Tom Tsakalos has already requested the [proposal application],” said selectman Frank Pannorfi.
This is the third time the town has sought a buyer for the land.
Mr. Pannorfi who is serving his third term on the board of selectmen, was also on the board when this commercial property went up for sale in 2004 and again in 2006. He said the first time that the town tried to sell the property, all of the bids received were thrown out. “It didn’t materialize,” Mr. Pannorfi said.
Although a $6 million offer was accepted when the property was put up for sale the second time, there were a number of obstacles, such as necessary zoning changes, development agreements, and a drop in the economy that prevented the transaction from being finalized. In 2009, after three years of negotiations, the deal was called off.
“We learned a lot from both of those [proposal] processes. This latest advertisement expresses that,” Mr. Pannorfi said.
He said since 2006, much has changed and a great deal of work has been done to make the sale a smoother process for the buyer.
“When we put that property up for sale in 2006, we didn’t have a fixed idea of what we wanted. Since then, we have completed the Local Comprehensive Plan, which is a vision of how the people in this community would like to see that land developed. We now have a Sandwich Economic Initiative Corporation. We have made zoning changes to that area,” he said.
The makeup of the property has also changed since the last time it was put up for sale. In May, Town Meeting approved including the Pop Warner Football field site in the sale of this property. This Pop Warner land added seven more acres to the property.
Bidders have the option of waiving these seven acres and developing around the field. If they chose to include these acres, they must agree to construct another field, of equal or better value, on a separate parcel of town-owned land.
Mr. Pannorfi said all of the changes that the town has made since 2006 are spelled out in the formal Request for Proposals document that interested bidders will respond to in the application process.
Mr. Pannorfi said he is completely optimistic that this time around, the sale will have a positive outcome.
“This time I think we are in a better position. Given all of the things we have done and are doing makes it easier for developers,” he said.
He said the town has also learned from some of the mistakes that were made the last time it tried to sell the property.
“We didn’t hold the winning bidder’s feet to the fire in terms of a development plan. We should have required more of a non-refundable deposit,” Mr. Pannorfi said.
He is also optimistic about this sale because of what he is hearing from other developers.
“There is a lot of optimism being expressed by developers. Many have told me this property has more potential than you realize. Selling this land is a very big deal. It’s good news,” Mr. Pannorfi said.
The town has asked for all bids to be submitted by Friday, December 21.