By Adam Swift
The Wonderland property is now back on board as the preferred site for building a new high school, at least as far as the Revere High School Building Committee is concerned.
Last week, the building committee voted to move forward with the Wonderland site as the preferred option for building a new, four-story high school, choosing it over building on the current site.
The Wonderland site was the initial selection for a new high school by the building committee, school committee, and city council well over a year ago. The council later approved the appropriation of $29.5 million for the eminent domain taking of the 30-acre property. The city is still in litigation with the former owners of the property
However, early in 2023, there were not enough city council votes to move forward with the debt authorization for the project. The council then sent the project back to the school building committee and the project development team, asking them to look at building on the current high school site.
Over the past several months, the building committee narrowed down the preferred option for submission to the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) to two plans, a four-story new building on either the Wonderland site or at the current high school property.
The estimated cost of building on the Wonderland site would be $522 million, which includes the $29.5 million the city has already spent to take the 30-plus acre site by eminent domain. The estimated cost of building on the existing site is $550 million.
After accounting for the MSBA grants, project manager Brian Dakin of Leftfield said the total cost to Revere for building on the current site would be just under $311 million, while the cost to the city of the Wonderland option would be just over $288.5 million.
Now, the recommendation of the building committee needs the approval of the school committee and the city council before it can be submitted to the MSBA as the preferred building option next month.
While the building committee did make the recommendation for the Wonderland site, which has the backing of Mayor Patrick Keefe, there is still the possibility that the current site could stay in play.
Former City Councillor and current building committee member Gerry Visconti raised the question of what would happen if the current council does not approve moving forward with the Wonderland recommendation. The preferred site recommendation only needs a majority vote of the council, however, the expected debt authorization vote in June would need 8 of 11 council votes to pass.
“Is it a possibility that we are back to where we were last year when it comes to a vote and it doesn’t pass again?” Visconti asked. “My major concern here is to go through this entire process and not know whether or not there are eight votes to bond it.”
Dakin said that if all three boards approve the Wonderland site as a preferred option by a simple majority vote, it will be submitted to the MSBA.
“Which then means that by June-ish, the MSBA would issue a project funding agreement,” said Dakin. “That project funding agreement would then need a supermajority at the council.”
If the project funding agreement did not get the supermajority vote, Dakin that could likely be the end of the line for the project.
“So there is absolutely a risk there,” said Dakin.
City Council President Anthony Cogliandro asked if there was a way to add language to the recommendation that would keep the current site on the table if a vote on the Wonderland site failed at either the school committee or council.
Dakin said the building committee could add that language to the recommendation.
The building committee accepted the language, which offers the existing site as the preferred option if a vote on the Wonderland site fails.
“I think that is the best way to move the motion forward, because we don’t want to take the chance of actually losing what we have,” said building committee member Susan Gravellese. “If Wonderland failed, we would at least be able to have the existing site, which is far from ideal, but it’s something.”
The City Council is scheduled to take up the site recommendation at its Jan. 29 meeting.
All members of the high school building committee present at last week’s meeting voted in favor of the recommendation, with the exception of Visconti, who voted present.