Thursday, February 14, 2008

Salem Jail developer switching from condos to apartments

Salem News reports that the Salem Jail, slated for development for over 15 years, will be developed as apartments rather than condos. On the Housing Bubble Blog, people refer to those as "repartments".

I'm not really surprised. The economy has been cited as the main reason for this, but I believe also that the changes that this area of Salem will undergo, notably the bypass road, will be more risky than many condo owners would want.

The developers, New Boston Ventures, briefly reviewed their plans at last night's meeting of the Salem Redevelopment Authority. There will be 36 residences and 22 of them will be leased as apartments for the first five years. There will be 7 permanent parking spaces for the complex in the Museum Place garage. There will be 5 spaces reserved in the garage for the senior housing complex next door (where this blogger lives), during construction. (Interestingly, it was not mentioned in the meeting, nor did I think to ask, if these spaces would be permanent. Parking is the most serious concern in my building.)

Here's a model:

The view of the model is from St. Peter St., with Bridge St. and the bypass road to the left of the frame and St John's Church to the right. The parking entrance is the "historic house" on the right, and the main jail building is left of the center courtyard.

A restaurant has long been proposed for the jail site, but no proposals were named at the meeting; Aquitaine had a proposal for the jail site several years ago, but had since pulled out. New discussions are ongoing but are said to be at a sensitive stage.

Rental prices were not given but the condos will be in the range of $400K to 700K.

My councilor, Mike Sosnowski, was very enthusiastic and could not stop praising this project.

I don't feel the same. I'm very upset.

Why can't the SRA promote something other than condos?

The Aquitaine proposal for the restaurant at the jail was killed by its grandiose nature: There was to be a new garage at Church St. (long a dream of the city but no money.) There was going to be valet parking to Museum Place. Those things were never to come together, indeed, they're not even on the horizon now.

So the SRA tries again to develop. And makes condos. What a surprise.

I'm angry with my councilor for approving this: Mike is a working-class lobsterman. There is no way someone like him or his family or kids could afford any of the apartments even if they were feasible for him. He could not afford Aquitaine had it been developed, and he will surely not be able to afford whatever restaurant comes in there.

If one comes in.

The approval of the Salem Jail project comes on the eve of what many believe is an oncoming recession. Many in the financial blogosphere even fear that we are back in 1929, headed for another, greater depression, brought on by the massive worldwide credit bubble that may have just popped.

Imagine 2010. The developers have half-completed the project. Still no restaurant, and it's rumored there'll never be one. Joe Yuppie, a new resident of the Jail, is trying to leave house for work. He'd take the train but because of budget cuts the trains are late and when he tried taking the train, it took 20 minutes to walk to Salem Depot in the teeth of the bypass road traffic. He missed his train and he was late. His boss told him "never again!" He'd like to get a job within walking distance but Dunkin Donuts doesn't pay enough.

So he's been idling at St. Peter St. behind a line of traffic waiting to get onto Bridge. It's raining hard. He sees his neighbor walking on the street behind him. He's not one of the lucky ones--he has to walk a block and a half to Museum Place to get his car. He can't wait to move out.

So too, does Joe. Joe has been sitting in traffic for ten minutes. He fumes, knowing that when he goes through the intersection, another one awaits at Washington St., and still others at North St. or Boston St. He looks at his watch, angry. He knows it will take him 20 minutes in any direction to get out of downtown, and 20 minutes after that to even think about reaching the highway, to 128, 93 and another workday.

Is this worth $700,000?

Other photos from the SRA meeting:


The Salem Insider said...

$400K -$700k
Thats just crazy.

Anonymous said...

Any latest news on this project? Has construction even begun? I'm currently in Wisconsin but am planning on moving to Salem in 3-5 years. We are very interested in this property and would like to know what's going on with it. I can't seem to find much info on it when I search. If anyone knows where I can follow up-to-date information or if you know the latest, please email me at