By Thomas Grillo
A Chelsea developer is planning a $2 million transformation of the mostly vacant Masonic Hall at the corner of Market and Liberty streets.
New Boston Cos. secured a permit to turn the four-story brick landmark into 35 market rate apartments above the first floor furniture store.
“We want to be part of the revitalization of the downtown,” said Rick Costa, the company’s president. “We are really excited about it.”
When completed, the National Register of Historic Places property will offer 27 studio apartments and eight two-bedroom units on the second, third, and fourth floors.
He pledged to keep as many of the original architectural features of the building, such as the detailed wood paneling in many of the rooms.
Costa paid $1.5 million for the historic building in August, according to the Southern Essex County Registry of Deeds. He purchased the 23,000-square-foot property from Charles Patsios, who paid $1.1 million for it last spring.
At the time, the Swampscott developer said he planned to convert the building into a hotel. Instead, he flipped it and collected a $400,000 profit in the deal.
So far, efforts by a city agency and a panel comprised of local and state officials to attract an investor to construct a hotel in Lynn have failed. Among those that have tried include the Economic Development & Industrial Corp., the city’s development bank, and the Lynn Economic Advancement and Development team, formed to jump-start development in the city.
Built in 1880, the Victorian Gothic architectural style property originally housed the Lynn branch of the YMCA. The building was sold to the local Masonic lodge in 1907. The Masons held onto the property for 112 years before the recent sale.
The Masonic project comes as construction is underway on nearby Munroe Street for The Caldwell, a 259-unit high-rise luxury apartment project. The 10-story development promises amenities such as a rooftop deck, pool, fitness center, a lounge, underground parking. Rents are expected to range from $2,000 to more $3,000.
The $90 million project is a joint venture between developer Procopio Cos. of Lynnfield and affiliates of the Carlyle Group, a publicly-traded global investor in Washington, D.C. Leasing could start as early as next year.
In addition, a North Andover developer broke ground last week on the 14-acre former Beacon Chevrolet property on the Lynnway for a $100 million apartment waterfront community. Expected to open in two years, rents for the 331 studio, one- and two-bedroom units are expected to be in the $1,800 to $2,500.
Costa said the number of units in his project could change and rents have yet to be determined. But his apartments will not be high-priced, he added.
“Our rents will not be anywhere close to those other two developments,” he said. “We want to make sure it’s a project that’s affordable to people who want to live downtown, but can’t pay luxury rents.”
Ward 5 Councilor Dianna Chakoutis, whose district includes the downtown, said she was unfamiliar with the project and declined comment.
But Seth Albaum, a longtime downtown resident and a founder of the Downtown Lynn Neighborhood Association, said more housing will fuel vitality in the downtown. “Having more neighbors in the downtown is a good thing,” he said.