In an historic vote that will transform the lives of Revere families and students for decades to come, the City Council voted unanimously to build a new Revere High School on the site of the former Wonderland Greyhound Park on VFW Parkway.
The Council’s vote follows similar actions by the Revere School Building Committee and the Revere School Committee who also determined that the Wonderland site was a superior option to building the new high school on the current RHS site, which was the other option.
The potential of using the current RHS site to build one central middle school for all Revere students – or totally renovating the current high school and placing the middle school there – weighed heavily in the Council’s discussions.
Dr. Dianne Kelly, superintendent of Revere schools, lauded the councillors for their unanimous vote.
“It’s really exciting, I think it’s a huge moment for the City of Revere,” said Kelly. “It’s a great moment for all of the children, present and future of Revere. I’m just thankful to work in a community where everybody, all of the elected officials and the citizens, really values education.”
The vote was a monumental triumph for Mayor Brian Arrigo, whose administration’s sound fiscal management has put the city in the strong financial position of being able to propose a $378 million state-of-the-art high school. If all goes according to schedule, Revere students can look forward to the opening of the new Revere High School in the summer of 2026.
Brian Dakin, project manager for the Revere High School project, said an initial key deadline for the project is March 3 at which time the City must submit “the preferred schematic report” to the Massachusetts School Building Authority.
Council President Gerry Visconti gave each of the councillors an opportunity to ask questions to Dakin or provide their own comments about their preferred option for the new high school. Visconti decided to stray from any council seniority and begin the comment period in “alphabetical order.”
Councillor Anthony Cogliandro said “my big concern is the cost of the land acquisition” at Wonderland Greyhound Park.
“You said, $30 million, but I find that it might be a lot more that,” said Cogliandro. “If that is the case, are we still moving forward, and how will that impact the taxpayers?”
Dakin, who is the son of former Supt. of Schools Dr. Paul Dakin, said the $30 million figure is “really a starting point value.” “From what I understand there’s a commitment from the City that if that value increases, we can stick with it.”
Ward 4 Councillor Patrick Keefe, a member of the School Building Committee, said he has been involved in the project for the past 18 months.
“Early on, a year ago, I really didn’t think it [Wonderland] was going to be feasible,” said Keefe. “Over time I took the pros and cons, and due to some of the assessments that has been brought forth, I definitely came on to the other side.”
Keefe said the pros for the Wonderland option were site control, future site control [of the current RHS location] for growth of the city, and the ability to meet the demands of the growth of the city a decade from now. He also noted that there will be no disruption in the current learning environment at Revere High School.
“Wonderland is a clean campus, you don’t have to change around the culvert that goes through the current school,” said Keefe, adding that “you will not see an Assembly Row (Somerville) at Wonderland.”
Ward 1 Councillor Joanne McKenna said her biggest concern was that Wonderland “was not a pedestrian-friendly area.”
“Councillor Novoselsky and I have been working diligently through the last six years to get added crosswalks in there,” said McKenna. “It doesn’t matter where the crosswalks are. The kids walk in between the cars. That’s my biggest fear. I think if we’re going to put the new high school, it really needs to be pedestrian friendly, and we should have all kinds of [traffic] studies there to make sure the kids are safe.”
Councillor-at-Large Steven Morabito said he was “not an obstructionist, but I do have reservations about building the high school at the former Wonderland site.”
Morabito said he grew up in that neighborhood, expressing safety concerns about crossing the rotary on foot, “especially during rush hour, in morning traffic, and during the winter when there is snow.”
Morabito estimated that 100,000 vehicles travel through the Wonderland location on most days.
“We do need high school and I campaigned on the fact that I’m pro-education, and I know we need a new high school,” concluded Morabito, also citing the desirability of the current RHS site for one central middle school.
Ward 2 Councillor Ira Novoselsky said by purchasing the Wonderland site and building the new high school there, the City would retain the authority to “sell the [remaining] land for what we want on it, not what a developer wants on it.”
Ward 6 Councillor Richard Serino asked Chief Financial Officer Richard Viscay about the potential tax revenues that would be generated by the conversion of the Wonderland site into a commercial or residential site.
Viscay outlined three potential scenarios for for commercial-residential splits on the property that would generate annual tax revenues between $17-19 million.
“Assuming it eventually gets developed, it’s important to note that site has sat vacant for ten years, and in some ways, it has been a blight to our community with some of the activities that have gone on there,” said Serino. “So I think this could be a positive thing for the site.”
Councillor-at-Large Marc Silvestri asked for a firm clarification that “on paper that the new school will be done 100 percent union built and Revere residents will have a number of those jobs onsite.”
Council President Gerry Visconti, a member of the School Building Committee, reaffirmed his previous vote, noting that residents should understand that once the vote is official, everyone should be “all in” on the construction of the new high school and there is no turning back.
And Visconti was right on the mark as the City Council followed the votes by the School Building Committee and the School Committee by casting an “all-in” unanimous vote for the Wonderland site.