Town receives three proposals to lease Senior Center space

Arts center, Mystic River group compete, as latter director explains aims


UPDATED, May 25: The town has received three proposals to lease space in the Central School (Senior Center), and two groups, the Arlington Center for the Arts and the Mystic River Watershed Association are vying for some of the same space.

Jenny Raitt, town planning director, reported May 23 that the center seeks available third- and fourth-floor areas and that two applications from the watershed association, a current tenant, eyes the third- and fourth-floor of Suite 302, known as Suite 6 and a second proposal to lease Suite 2. The association said that the latter is a "backup application," as its preference is for Suite 302.

The town Retirement Board, long on the ground floor of Arlington High School, seeks first-floor space that will become vacant after the Housing Corporation of Arlington leaves June 30.

Asked why the Mystic River Watershed Association is seeking new space, Ekongkar Singh (EK) Khalsa, its executive director, said in an interview May 24: "We're growing."

By how much? When he arrived in his current position, in 2008, he said the office on the third floor of the Senior Center had three full-time people.

How environmental group has grown

Now the full-time professional staff has grown to seven, with six to eight full-time summer More than 1,500 volunteers help the environmental nonprofit protect the Mystic River watershed.

The organization dates to 1972, in the aftermath of the first Earth Day, and has been in its current location since about 2002, Khalsa believes.

"The town has been a great partner," Khalsa says, and that moving down the hallway to Suite 306 would be "perfect."

He said his proposal includes office space on the fourth floor, to which his employees would have access via an internal staircase.

Khalsa said that if the Center for the Arts' bid for his preferred option, Suite 306, is chosen, he has submitted an alternative bid, for space next door.

With nearby access to the Mystic River as well as the relatively commuter convenience to the Alewife MBTA station, he finds the current location a positive asset.

In 2015, the association had revenues of $730,150 and expenses of $524,300. It made news last July, when it released its findings graded area waterways. On Tuesday, May 31, the association's latest findings will be released.

Hard to wait

Linda Shoemaker, the arts center's executive director, commented: "The preparation of the bid was a huge amount of work, but the waiting is almost harder!"

Since last August, when a school subcommittee said it would have to consider taking back the former Gibbs for classroom space because of expanding enrollment, YourArlington has reported the impact on four tenants, including the arts center.

An opinion piece published Feb. 27 includes much information about the center's role in Arlington.

Raitt said that the Planning Department will use the selection criteria outlined in the request for proposals to evaluate all proposals. See the RFPs here >> The department aims to make a recommendation to the Redevelopment Board about leasing the space by Monday, June 6, following review by Raitt, Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine and Redevelopment Board member Michael Cayer.

As the school administration prepares to take back the former Gibbs School for classrooms to address enrollment challenges, four current occupants seek new homes. See link immediately below.

May 22, 2016: In process with many steps, 4 Gibbs tenants seek new homes

May 11, 2016: Dearborn Academy to head to Newton, making way for Lesley Ellis move

Opinion, Feb. 27, 2016: Fresh looks at the center for the arts' future

Oct. 11, 2016: CROWDING CRUNCH: Arts, educators, nonprofit make pitches

This report was published Monday, May 23, 2016, and updated May 25, to add interview, comment.

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