By SCOTT JACKSON
The Braintree company that owns the land on which Quincy opened a 100-spot parking lot two years ago has taken legal action to evict the city from the property.
William Geary, the special counsel to Mayor Thomas Koch for downtown redevelopment, on Monday told city councillors FX Messina Enterprises has begun proceedings in Quincy District Court to evict the city from the lot at 1565 Hancock St., which the city intends to fight. Geary said the two sides are set to appear in court today (Thursday) for a motion hearing and a trial date has been scheduled for Jan. 9.
The city has been using the land at 1565 Hancock St. – commonly referred to as the Messina Lot – since 2016. The Messina Lot is one of several parking areas in Quincy Center where motorists who formerly used the Hancock Lot were re-assigned after the latter closed earlier this year. The Messina Lot provides parking for 100 employees from eight different Quincy Center companies, Geary said, and is open to the public for free during evening and weekend hours.
The city and FX Messina signed a one-year deal lease allowing city to use the land – which was previously vacant – in 2016. That lease was renewed in 2017 but was not renewed this year. Geary said the city continued to make rent payments on the lot since the lease expired this past June.
“We are contesting the grounds upon which they wish to evict us, having paid the rent up to the point in time when they did issue that eviction notice,” Geary said, “and also challenging the grounds upon which they filed this action in Quincy District Court – this is the kind of action we believe is in the jurisdiction of the Superior Court.”
If the city were forced to vacate the lot, Geary said it would create an “untenable circumstance for us, currently and for the foreseeable future.”
An attorney representing FX Messina was present at Monday’s City Council meeting but declined to comment after the meeting ended.
A council order to temporarily take the Messina Lot was introduced in May after talks between the two sides about renewing the lease reached an impasse. In October, a second order to take the lot outright by eminent domain was introduced and substituted for the original bill. The city proposed paying FX Messina $6.8 million for the land as part of that order, which is still pending before the City Council.
Geary on Monday said representatives for FX Messina told city officials to take the property by eminent domain if the city did not plan to stop using the lot once the new municipal garage on the Hancock Lot opens in late 2019. He said the city would continue to need the lot over the next several years for parking, and would then sell it to a developer after that point.
“We believe that we are going to need that lot irrespective of what occurs for a variety of development needs we will have,” Geary said. “The old saying, ‘go into real estate because they’re not making any more of it,’ certainly applies in Quincy Center.”
Councillor Anne Mahoney said city officials should have had a backup plan knowing the lease for the Messina Lot was expiring in June.
“The city knew going into this that we had a potential problem…because we do not have a lease,” she said. “We went into this knowing in June that we did not have a lease.”
Geary said that was not a fair statement to make because the city began using the lot two years ago, with a lease for the land. He said the city was surprised by FX Messina’s decision to not renew the lease this year.
“It did come as a surprise, because up until that point in time we did not anticipate that they would have a change of heart,” Geary said.
Ward 1 Councillor David McCarthy said the city handled the closure of the Hancock Lot well and was optimistic the city could find an alternative to the Messina Lot if necessary.
“There will be other buildings that will come down, other lots that will open up in the area as pieces get moved around where parking will be available,” McCarthy said.
Geary said a full presentation on the effort to redevelop Quincy Center – including projects already underway and others forthcoming – would be made to the City Council early in 2019.