Legislature Passes Bill to Convey Superior Court to Salem Redevelopment Authority

COMMONWEALTH OF MASSACHUSETTS
MASSACHUSETTS SENATE
STATE HOUSE, BOSTON 02133

Senator Joan B. Lovely
State Senator
2nd Essex District

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

January 4, 2017

Legislature Passes Bill to Convey Superior Court to Salem Redevelopment Authority

(Boston) – Yesterday, on the last day of informal session, the legislature passed H. 2837, An Act directing the Commissioner of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance to convey a certain parcel of land to the Salem Redevelopment Authority.

The bill effectively conveys the Superior Court and County Commissioners buildings to the Salem Redevelopment Authority while also conveying the Superior Court House Library, the three court rooms and the Clerk’s Office comprising approximately 18,000 to 20,000 square feet of space for use and ownership by the Secretary of the Commonwealth for the Essex South Registry of Deeds. In exchange, the Secretary of State will make annual payments commensurate with the cost of constructing or leasing the space.

“I am thrilled for the City of Salem and the Registry of Deeds that we were finally able to pass this important piece of legislation,” stated Senator Joan Lovely. “I look forward to this bill resulting in the preservation and restoration of an important historic landmark, catalyzing further investment in the City’s downtown and keeping the Registry, its important services and jobs in the City of Salem.”

In 2008, the Registry of Deeds relocated from 36 Federal Street – a location they had been for over a century – to Shetland Park on a temporary basis to make way for the new Ruane Courthouse Complex. Since the Superior Court and County Commissioners’ building have been vacant it has been the desire of all stakeholders involved to ensure both are properly preserved, renovated and re-used. At the time, another important goal was to attract the Registry of Deeds back to downtown Salem. The bill passed today accomplishes both of these goals.

“As someone who spent a considerable amount of time in the old Superior Court building during my law enforcement career I have a deep appreciation not only for the beautiful structure, but also the important history of it,” stated State Representative Paul Tucker. “I am proud to have been a part of ensuring this gem will continue to serve our residents while reminding us of our past.”

“I am pleased to relocate the Essex South Registry of Deeds to a permanent location in downtown Salem, which this Office will own”, said Secretary Galvin.

“I’d like to thank our legislative delegation, Senator Lovely and Representative Tucker, for being such strong partners and for their work with the City to see this important bill through to final passage,” stated Mayor Driscoll. “We are excited for the opportunities the re-development of the Superior Court and County Commissioners building will bring to our downtown to restore, re-use and enliven these important historic assets.”

“The Salem Partnership would like to thank Senator Lovely, Representative Tucker and Mayor Driscoll for their commitment to the preservation of the Superior Court and the County Commissioners Building. Keeping the courts in Salem and the preservation of these two key historic structures are among the Partnership’s top priorities. We look forward to working with the City on the redevelopment process,” added Beth Debski, Executive Director of the Salem Partnership.

The bill has been laid before Governor Baker for his consideration.

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Why this bill is important

Preservation of Salem jobs

40 people are now employed at the Registry of Deeds. If the registry was unable to relocate in a portion of the Superior Court building, the City was at risk of losing these jobs to another city or town.

Local economic benefits to Salem

The registry is used daily by people buying, selling and researching North Shore properties. While much of the work can be done online, its business still drives significant pedestrian foot traffic. This foot traffic contains prospective consumers to support local retail and restaurants and the City’s overall economy.

 Property tax revenue to the City

The sooner this property is redeveloped, the sooner the City can reap the benefit of the collection of property taxes which is all new revenue. Considering the necessary investment – approximately $50 million – the new tax revenue will be substantial. Any further delays with the redevelopment, delays the collection of property tax revenue for the City.

 The Registry of Deeds as anchor tenant

The City of Salem has a strong track record in using public investment to support economic development and redevelopment in the downtown. Examples include the City Hall Annex leases at 120 Washington Street and the new lease at 90 Washington Street across from City Hall, along with the Community Life Center project at the corner of Boston and Bridge Street. Having the Registry as a partner of the overall Superior Court renovation will hopefully be as effective.

Proximity to Salem Court Complex

There’s a real benefit to having the Registry downtown in close proximity to the courthouse and legal community.

 Ensure the proper historic preservation of the most historically significant portions of the building

An important, if not the most important, piece of this renovation will be the historic preservation and restoration work. Aside from the need for historic tax credits, since the Superior Court property is a National Register Building, a developer will be unable to carve up the interior – nor should they – especially in the most historic portions of the building. The Registry use will preserve the historic interior of the most important pieces of the building all the while allowing for adaptive re-use in the rest of the building.

 Impacts of further delays on the property

This bill was first introduced to the legislature 4 years ago. If not passed this session, further deterioration of this historic gem in a high profile location would have continued.

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