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Apartments planned in old SoBo tobacco warehouse

Those working in downtown South Boston and wishing to reside there have not had many opportunities to fulfill that wish in the past.

They may have gotten their wish Monday after South Boston Town Council came out of closed session and voted to approve a financial agreement with Rehab Development of Winston-Salem, N.C., to build approximately 22 market rate apartments in the former New Brick Warehouse.

On a motion by Councilman Coleman Speece and a second by Vice Mayor Ed Owens, council voted unanimously to approve the agreement with Rehab Development regarding development of the New Brick Warehouse property contingent upon six conditions, including Rehab Development obtaining clear title to the New Brick Warehouse property from Destination Downtown South Boston.

The former tobacco warehouse is located at 701 Jefferson Avenue.

Saving the last standing tobacco warehouse in South Boston, a warehouse built in 1900, was important to her organization, according to Destination Downtown South Boston Executive Director Tamyra Vest.

“We took on ownership of the New Brick Warehouse in order to save the last standing tobacco warehouse from being demolished, and we’ve been very picky in making sure that anyone we sell the building to has to adhere to the Secretary of the Interior’s Rehabilitative Standards because that was our main goal - to preserve its historic character,” Vest said Tuesday.

“We ended up with the ideal project — our developers will be utilizing tax credits, which require historic standards, so we get to preserve the building as well as get 22 market-rate apartments in downtown.”

Vest noted her organization has been working hard this year on some economic restructuring projects, and building the foundation to make the New Brick Warehouse project happen is one of them.

“As we develop downtown, we always strive toward a walkable downtown where you can live  - wake up with no grass to mow, walk over to get your coffee, walk to work (or have a shorter drive to work),” said Vest.

“You can even catch dinner and a show without ever having to get in your car.”

Downtown living puts feet on the street, with “a vibrant and healthy downtown playing an extremely important role in our regional economy and identity,” she noted.

The financial agreement also is contingent on a written commitment by Rehab Development’s principals to make a minimum capital investment in the amount of $2.5 million to rehabilitate the New Brick building, converting the apartments into approximately 22 market rate apartment units.

Plans include construction of 14 two-bedroom, 1,125 square foot lofts, and a pair of two-bedroom units containing 1,096 and 1,169 square feet, respectively.

Plans include construction of two 705 square foot, one-bedroom units and two 821-square foot, one-bedroom units, in addition to a 712 square foot one bedroom unit and a 644 square foot studio.

Rehab Development must successfully apply for and obtain a Special Use Permit from the town to develop the property as a multi-family dwelling project.

The financial agreement is contingent upon successful completion of a written agreement committing the town to provide a $185,000 interest free loan to Rehab Development for a term not to exceed 20 years with minimum annual payments of $5,000 in order to amortize this debt upon lease up and stabilization of the property with provisions for earlier repayment.

Finally, the financial agreement is contingent upon the $185,000 loan from the town being available to Rehab Development upon securing construction loan funding and project construction commencing in 2013.

Councilman Robert “Bob” Hughes was absent and did not vote at Monday’s meeting.


Council approves application for taxi service

Council, with Councilman Robert “Bob” Hughes absent, unanimously approved an application for certificate of convenience and necessity for Jackie M. Bowey to operate a taxi service, “Jackie’s Cab,” at 210 Factory Street in South Boston.

Council’s vote came after a public hearing during which Bowey spoke in favor of her application.

She told council she plans to operate from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays and on weekends, and she added she might eventually consider 24-hour service.

Her service may expand to lunch deliveries and small grocery runs to elderly citizens and shut-ins, Bowey noted.

Bowey anticipates her service will fit a need not currently provided by HART (Hart Area Rural Transportation), with evenings and weekends.

Per town code, Bowey is permitted to charge $2 for the first mile and $1 for each mile thereafter, with a $10 per hour wait time.

On a suggestion from Town Manager Ted Daniel, council agreed to consider amending the ordinance allowing Bowey more flexibility in charges to allow for inflation.

Bowey formerly operated a taxicab service in South Boston for over nine years but did not seek renewal when her certificate expired in 2010.

There currently are no taxicab companies operating in South Boston, she noted.


Pawnbrokers now required to submit daily reports

Council unanimously approved an amendment to town code adding a new section requiring pawnbrokers to submit electronic daily reports.

The amendment mirrors state code giving town police the ability to enforce any violations with any pawnshop operating in town.

Pawnshops will be required to file daily reports electronically and submit them to the police department via email.

Pawnbrokers already submit daily electronic reports to his department, according to South Boston Police Chief Jim Binner, who added the new language “gives us teeth” to hold pawnbrokers accountable for the reports.

“It’s not an unusual request,” Binner said at last month’s work session, adding his department provided pawnbrokers with the software to record items in a format easily understood by the police department.


Transfer approved for community center capital outlay

Council approved a transfer of $30,500 from the parks and recreation contingency fund and $49,757.75 in council contingency monies toward capital outlay funding for the Washington-Coleman Community Center.

McDannald Construction submitted the low bid of $944,397 for construction of the community center, but Daniel told council Monday the town is seeking to reduce construction costs through change orders.

“That will save us some money,” Daniel told council Monday night, adding if not needed the money would simply be refunded to the budget line items from which it was transferred.

Upon a suggestion from Councilman W. R. “Bill” Snead, the motion approving the transfer stipulated the monies would transfer back to parks and recreation and contingency line items if not spent, according to percentages.


Amendment approved  

Council unanimously approved an amendment to town code regarding terms of office for members of boards and commissions.

Council discussed a town staff recommendation during the October work session amending town code to allow planning commission members to serve more than three four-year terms.

Language was amended to permit members of commissions and other appointed bodies to serve no more than three full consecutive terms of four or five years, or four full consecutive terms of three years, or six full consecutive terms of two years, with members continuing to serve until such time a member’s successor is appointed.