The ongoing renovations to the former Holy Family Academy have stalled yet again. The City Council has rejected bids for the construction project for the third time.
The former Catholic school is slated to become the new headquarters of the Bayonne Economic Opportunity Foundation (BEOF) and a new location for the city’s Head Start program, for low-income and special needs preschool students, ages 3 to 5.
The school closed in 2013 due to declining enrollment and financial issues. It’s been vacant ever since. In 2017, the city purchased the property for $2.5 million with the intention of moving the BEOF from its current multiple properties to one location.
The BEOF headquarters will be relocated to the former Holy Family convent. The new site of the Head Start program will be in the former school itself, with other locations already across the city.
While the interior of the building is currently being renovated, the exterior and the façade will remain the same. Construction was slated to wrap up in 2018, but it is now 2021, and progress has seemingly come to a standstill.
Council concerns quashed
At the March city council meeting, City Council President Sharon Ashe-Nadrowski raised concerns over the delays in the project. In response, BEOF Director Samantha Howard explained that the project was moving forward after issues with grant funding as well as the COVID-19 pandemic, and that bids were going out for the final renovations necessary before the project is complete.
Ashe-Nadrowski took issue with how the renovations were being sent out for contractors to bid on, questioning if the reason the bids have been rejected multiple times is because they are being sent out as a package, instead of sending out bids for each renovation individually. Howard said that was the recommendation of city engineer Rob Russo and city architect Al Sambade and that she was going to bid it out individually until their recommendations.
The bids for the renovations were again rejected at the July council meeting. In an interview with the Bayonne Community News, Ashe-Nadrowski said that after talking with city officials involved in the project, it wouldn’t have mattered either way.
“I thought we might get more bidders like if we broke it up, so contractors would bid on different pieces of it,” Ashe-Nadrowski said. “I talked to the [city] engineers, and it really wasn’t going to make a difference.”
“The problem is the bids are coming in higher than what the property was valued at,” Ashe-Nadrowski said.
Howard confirmed the problem to BCN, but added that the city is now in a good position.
“We’ve gone through all the city’s bid processes, and those bids came in way higher than the building is actually valued at,” Howard said.
Those bids came in at $6.8 million, according to Howard; the building is worth less than that.
“We were required at the very beginning of this whole process to get an appraisal,” Howard said. “That appraisal needed to speak to the building in its current state and in its completed state.”
In its completed state, the building was valued at $4.5 million, according to Howard.
“So those bids have been rejected,” Howard said. “At this point, we are now able to negotiate based on the ordinances for the city of Bayonne’s public bid process.”
Howard said that the BEOF and the city are working on negotiations to secure a contractor for the renovations, adding that “it looks like it’s going to be very successful.”
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