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MBTA to sell two properties south of Boston

In 2008, passengers could board ferries from Quincy 363 days a year. The service was halted in October 2013.

Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff/file 2008

In 2008, passengers could board ferries from Quincy 363 days a year. The service was halted in October 2013.

To help shore up its debt-burdened finances, the MBTA is selling about 14 acres in two properties south of Boston: a rarely used portion of the Greenbush commuter rail parking lot in Scituate, and the closed ferry terminal in Quincy.

Putting the land on the market is consistent with the policy of “efficient management of the MBTA’s real estate assets and the production of non-fare revenues to support the MBTA’s operations,” according to spokesman Joe Pesaturo.

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He noted that the financially strapped transit agency generated nearly $62 million in property sales and leases during the past two fiscal years.

While the potential reuse of the Quincy property is questionable, given various restrictions and the condition of the property, officials said the Scituate land could be a promising site for commercial and residential development.

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority advertised the Quincy property on the Fore River on March 12, saying that money from the sale “is essential to its purpose of providing public transportation.”

Bid documents said the site would be sold “as is” and covered 11.6 acres at the former Fore River Shipyard – with 3.8 of the acres underwater. The listing includes the closed ferry terminal, docking facility, parking, and “significantly degraded” sea wall and docks.

The MBTA stopped commuter boat service from Quincy in October 2013 after a water main break exacerbated structural problems with the 55-year-old sea wall and wharf, and state engineers determined the area was not safe, Pesaturo said.

Five months later, the agency announced that the repair costs were prohibitively expensive — $15 million to $50 million — and it would permanently cancel the Quincy ferry and sell the property, which it bought in 2004.

DJ MacKinnon of Atlantic Development in Hingham said his company looked at the site and described its potential development as “complicated.”

The land is zoned for industrial uses by the city of Quincy, but also is subject to two different sets of state regulations that restrict future use to marine and port-related activities, MacKinnon said.

In addition, there are environmental restrictions left over from the previous owner, the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority, he said.

“The other fairly significant complication is that the water main break that destabilized the pier and sea wall not only impacted the MBTA property but also abutting properties. There are significant questions as to liability,” MacKinnon said.

One more wrinkle: The MBTA currently leases a portion of the property to the US Naval Shipbuilding Museum, operating out of the now-closed USS Salem warship. A new owner would have to honor the lease through 2015, the listing said.

The MBTA did not set a minimum sale price, and said it plans to announce the high bidder this week.

For the Scituate property, the agency set a minimum $816,750 price for the 2.5 acres there, according to the bid documents issued in April. The land is part of the 4.5-acre upper parking lot located directly across from the Greenbush commuter rail station, the documents said.

Pesaturo said the MBTA wants to sell the lot because it is usually empty but still requires costly maintenance.

There are currently 946 parking spaces at the station, and the MBTA would retain 240 spaces in the upper lot, as well as 262 spaces in the lower lot next to the station, he said.

Scituate Town Meeting voted in April to rezone 23 acres on the Driftway — including the MBTA parking lot — to allow a dense mixture of commercial and residential development. Projects in the “village business overlay district” would need to get a special permit from the Planning Board.

Pesaturo said developers already have approached the MBTA about the Scituate property.

Scituate Selectman John Danehy said he’s excited the land is on the market.

“It looks like a barren, blighted area now of impervious asphalt — an ugly-looking thing,” he said. “My feeling is the best use would be retail on the first floor and [apartments or condos] above. You might get some ocean or North River views and that would certainly be great. It’s smart growth, being close to the T station and Greenbush Village.”

The MBTA, which acquired the land in 2002, set a June 4 deadline for submitting bids for the property, with an anticipated June 30, 2015, deadline for closing the sale.

Johanna Seltz can be reached at seltzjohanna@gmail.com.
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