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NORTH OF BOSTON

Wanted: Someone to make something out of old Swampscott station

The MBTA is seeking bids to lease the historic Swampscott train depot, which dates to 1868.
The MBTA is seeking bids to lease the historic Swampscott train depot, which dates to 1868.(Bette Keva for The Boston Globe)

The iconic Swampscott train depot, built in 1868 for the B&M Railroad and designed by George W. Cram, has been vacant for years.

An example of 19th-century train depot architecture — stick style, with a hipped slate roof — it strikes an emotional chord with residents who, according to Sylvia Belkin of the town’s Historic District Commission, want it “restored and preserved.”

The Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority is seeking bids from the public to lease the 1,334-square-foot depot located on Burrill Street and Railroad Avenue for $40,000 a year. Bids are due by Wednesday, Dec. 19, at 11 a.m. The MBTA has not said when it will choose a tenant.

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Several people who attended a walk-through on Oct. 31 estimated that renovations and utility costs would total $350,000. The cost would be borne by the tenant, but to help finance repairs, the MBTA has proposed a longer lease term at the Swampscott station.

In addition to the initial 10-year lease, the MBTA has added a second 10-year lease option, according to deputy press secretary Lisa Battiston.

Among the half-dozen potential bidders at the walk-through was Swampscott resident Emily Cilley, who envisioned a combination coffee shop and brew pub. Another potential bidder was Swampscott developer Charles Patsios, who suggested moving the station a mile away to Humphrey Street, where the Beach Bluff train station once stood.

“The site visit was incredibly discouraging,” Cilley said. The MBTA “is asking for a 10-year lease at $40,000 a year and no help on the construction cost.” She called the annual rent “preposterous,” saying “I thought we could get a decent deal.”

Belkin said the $40,000 a year rent is a “suggested” lease. “The T doesn’t want people to be dissuaded from making a bid. People are really interested in this. At the farmers market in late summer, that is what we heard over and over again, ‘Why aren’t you doing anything about the train station?’ ”

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The Swampscott train station stopped being used for passenger-related business after September 1952, according to the MBTA.

Calling it a “rare opportunity” for potential tenants, the MBTA put nine other locations out to bid in October. Two of them are in Lynn: a 2,700-square-foot storefront located off the commuter rail’s garage busway and a 9,000-square-foot storefront on Market Street, whose last tenant was North Shore Community College.

College president Patricia Gentile said water leaks and deferred maintenance, some of which was addressed, and a lack of classroom technology made the site less than ideal. The college ended its lease and moved into its new Thomas W. McGee addition in 2017.

The slate roof strikes an emotional chord with town residents, according to Sylvia Belkin of the Swampscott Historical Commission.
The slate roof strikes an emotional chord with town residents, according to Sylvia Belkin of the Swampscott Historical Commission.(Bette Keva for The Boston Globe)

Bette Keva can be reached at bettewk@gmail.com.