Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone said "I fully expect" IKEA to sell its 12-acre parcel of land in Assembly Square to a new developer who will find a mixed-use, transportation-friendly use for the land.
But if IKEA doesn't sell, the mayor wants the city of Somerville to have the power to take the parcel by eminent domain.
Curtatone said the Somerville Redevelopment Authority will be asked to vote on July 26 on an amendment to the area's urban renewal plan that would classify IKEA's 12 acre plot as an "acquisition parcel."
What that means, the mayor said, is that if, over time, there isn't sufficient movement toward developing the property, the city would have the power to take it by eminent domain.
"We will not allow it to sit [undeveloped] in perpetuity," the mayor said.
IKEA expected to sell
That said, Curtatone doesn't think matters will get to the point where an eminent domain taking would be necessary. He said IKEA is cooperating with efforts to sell its plot of land to a suitable developer.
IKEA announced Thursday it would not build a store in Somerville's Assembly Square. The Swedish furniture company bought land in the area in 1999 and its plans had been the subject of years-long speculation.
In fiscal year 2012, the city valued IKEA's parcel at $18,301,200 for taxes purposes, and the company paid $399,881 to the city in taxes. That was enough to put the company on the city's list of top ten taxpayers.
Curtatone said IKEA is initiating a "selective marketing process" to find the right buyer and is "reaching out to well established developers."
"Federal Realty has a clear interest" in pursuing the parcel, and "it makes absolute sense" for them to do so, the mayor said.
Though disappointed by IKEA's news, the mayor said, "We believe in the long run this is a better opportunity for the city."
He said IKEA has been a "great partner" over the years and that its agreement in a land-swap deal with Federal Realty, which was completed in 2009 and gave the Assembly Row company property along the Mystic River, was instrumental in getting Assembly Row off the ground.
"If it wasn't for IKEA … that particular development plan would not be occurring," the mayor said.