Town Considers Purchase of Downtown Tank Farm

The town is exploring the possibility of acquiring the downtown fuel tank farm property from Winthrop Nantucket Nominee Trust. The parcel is just one-third of an acre, consisting of the aging fuel tanks previously operated by Harbor Fuel before it moved its operations out of town, but it is a key property for the potential redevelopment of the waterfront area known as Harbor Place.

“There are exploratory discussions as to possible acquisitions of that property by the town and/or other parties for public use,” Town Manager Libby Gibson told the Current yesterday. Those discussions have happened behind closed doors in executive session, Gibson said, due to the sensitive nature of the topic.

The tank farm property is the last vestige of Winthrop’s once sprawling portfolio of downtown island real estate, which it acquired from the late Walter Beinecke’s Sherburne Associates in 1986. In recent years, it has been selling its holdings, including the most recent sale in December 2020 of the downtown properties where Stop & Shop, The Haulover, Fresh, and Hepburn are located to Steve Karp’s New England Development.

In May, Winthrop submitted an application to the Conservation Commission for approval to demolish eight of the 11 fuel tanks. That project is expected to get underway in the fall.

Winthrop trustee Peter Braverman said yesterday that he could neither confirm nor deny any talks with the town about selling the tank farm property. In general, he said, Winthrop was willing to work with the town to dispose of the property in a way that would serve the best interests of the community. “Winthrop has always been a good corporate citizen,” Braverman said. “If you look over our actions over the last 30 years, we’ve always been a good citizen and we continue to strive to be a good citizen. That’s not to say that we wouldn’t look to maximize profits, but we’ve always tried to what’s best for the town.”

What’s an example of that?

“You got the Stop & Shop,” Braverman said, referring to Winthrop granting a long-term lease to the grocery store giant following the drama over a CVS pharmacy potentially moving into the old Grand Union location back in 2012.  “It wasn’t my first choice.”

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