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New Brick apartment project on fast track in South Boston

South Boston Town Council, acting on pleas from developers and members of Destination Downtown South Boston, put the New Brick Warehouse apartment project on the fast track Monday night after a pair of public hearings, paving the way for work to begin on the apartments.

Council, acting on a request from Rehab Development, Inc. and Destination Downtown South Boston, unanimously approved a conditional special use permit to allow the property to be used as a multiple family dwelling in an adaptive reuse district.

It also approved a request from Rehab Development to vacate portions of First Street, Second Street and Jefferson Street to accommodate parking for the proposed development.

A board of viewers approved seven parking spaces each for First Street and Jefferson Street, five on Second Street and six on the private lot fronting Broad Street.

In addition, council approved an ordinance creating a residential parking zone for 10 diagonal parking spaces on Johnston Street and providing for parking permits.

Council also approved a condition requiring Rehab Development and any future owners to acquire property for the purpose of providing additional parking for the project within two years from the date construction begins.

The 10 parking spaces on Johnston Street would be terminated once Rehab Development provided additional parking for the apartments.

Patrick Riley of Rehab Development urged council to take action immediately to allow the project to move forward, noting the availability of tax credits. Developers are working to get additional dedicated parking for the land-locked warehouse building, he added.

“I’m in the process of securing additional parking, and I think we’d be doing a disservice to the overall project if additional spaces weren’t secured,” Riley said.

“I’m working on that, but for right now we need to have the special use permit because I need to get the architects started right away if we’re going to have this project done by the end of 2013.

“Tax credits are available to help this project in 2013,” Riley explained, adding there was no guarantee they’ll be available in 2014.

“We do need to get started on this right now,” noted Riley, pointing to an “aggressive building schedule” that would have approximately 20-25 apartments completed and certified for occupancy by Dec. 31.

The town stands to lose out on approximately $1 million in equity generated by historic tax credits, making it more difficult to arrange financing for the project if it didn’t move forward immediately, Riley said.

“I need your help tonight to push it forward, I want council to know if we don’t move forward tonight, we’ll lose the building,” Riley concluded.

Gene Haugh, representing Destination Downtown South Boston, and downtown business owners Frank Fincher and Tom Raab spoke in favor of the project moving forward immediately.

Rabb pointed out the New Brick Warehouse was the last standing brick tobacco warehouse remaining in the county, telling council the project represented the last chance to save the historic building.

“A project like this can do nothing but good,” Fincher added.

Several council members asked if every available option had been explored in securing additional parking for the project before they approved an amendment requiring Rehab Development to do just that within a two-year period.

Councilman Coleman Speece expressed his concerns over parking for the proposed project but said he felt the project had to go forward, and he urged Riley and Rehab Development to fix the parking situation.

“We either do this or scrap this project for the near-term future,” said Speece.