As two real estate development projects come before the Design Review Board Wednesday night, an earlier project that was itself the subject of the DRB sits on the shelf waiting for those community-processed designs to become reality. At the intersection of Bellevue and Pine, a fire-damaged and much tagged apartment building serves as a daily reminder of the economic reality that has ground much development to a halt.
“Like a lot of people, we’re working as hard as we can to attract financing for the project,” said Stratford Company CEO George Webb. “But, we’ve fallen victim to the credit crunch.” He said he does not know when the financing will come through and allow the project to move forward.
The Stratford Company and Ankrom Moisan architects first brought the proposed development known as Pine Street Condominiums to the Design Review Board for early design guidance in August 2007. The plan called for a new six-story, 118-unit mixed-use building with about 13,000 square feet of ground floor retail. The new building would require the demolition of the Marion Apartments.
In May 2008, after the project successfully fended off a legal attack from neighborhood development activist Dennis Saxman, the Department of Planning and Development (DPD) approved the proposed new building, but the agency will not issue a master use permit, which would allow demolition and construction work to begin, until it receives an additional $21,500 in outstanding fees from the property owner, DPD spokesperson Bryan Stevens said. To date, DPD has only received $37,295 of the $58,795 required for issuance of the master use permit.
The dilapidated building is a magnet for some of the less savory elements of city living including vandalism and crime. “There have been a number of complaints over the years ranging from the building being open to entry and the need for a fence around the building,” Stevens said. Webb said that on numerous occasions he has had vagrants removed from the building and graffiti painted over.
In October 2008, a fire ripped through part of the building as its final tenants were being turned out. Investigators later determined that the fire was intentionally set by 89-year-old Ed Jackson who had served as the apartment manager and the neighborhood’s de facto nightwatchman. Jackson died in the blaze.
You can still see some of the charring from the fire — and plenty of tags and graffiti. But the empty space has also been put to good use on occasion. Sidewalk Vintage holds guerrilla thrift sales under the apartment’s overhang. It’s random and breaking various muni codes but it’s the kind of thing you only get when things break and there are empty spaces that need to be filled.
Webb said that he wants more than anyone to redevelop the property. “We’d like to eliminate the eyesore and move ahead with the project.”