Six-Story Apartment Building Approved for Mount Vernon Street

By Thomas Grillo

The first tenants won’t move into luxurious loft-style apartments at the restored Daily Item building on Exchange Street in downtown until next summer.

But the development team is already planning their next project just a few feet away.

Hourmat Abdul Rauf, CEO of Lynn-based Buildar Group Inc. received approval this week for a six-story apartment building to be built in the newspaper’s Mount Vernon Street parking lot.

The new complex on the 4,841-square-foot parcel will feature 25 units atop two ground-floor retail shops.

“It is with great pleasure to submit the following for your review,” Rauf wrote to the city’s Inspectional Services Department (ISD) last month.  

In a brief presentation on Tuesday, Rauf showed color renderings of his latest apartment building to the Site Plan Review Committee. The panel includes Charles Gaeta, executive director of the Lynn Housing Authority, Lynn Economic Development & Industrial Corp. Director James Cowdell, and representatives from ISD, Community Development, the Department of Public Works, the Water & Sewer Commission, and the Planning Department.

The committee gave the development a green light with the condition that Rauf replace concrete sidewalk panels and install granite curbs in front of the project, and meet the city’s water and sewer requirements. The next step is to secure a building permit.

“I am eager to get started,” Rauf told them. 

Rauf and his brother, Hashmat Rauf, bought the 120-year-old flatiron building in 2018 for $1.4 million. They later filed plans  to renovate the vacant five-story landmark into 31 luxury units with seven commercial spaces on the ground floor. They have told officials rents would range from $1,800 to more than $2,000. 

The brothers have been chronicling the building’s renovation on BGI’s Facebook page.

“Lynn is on the rise,” they wrote. “We are planning a full-gut renovation of the building and restoring its exterior to its 1900 glory…tenants will enjoy a five-minute of walk to Lynn Beach, a two-minute walk to commuter rail that’ll take 20 minutes to get to Boston.”

For nearly six years, the project has faced a series of stops and starts as the three developers have owned the building in that time.

In 2015, the landmark property was purchased for $880,000 by US-1 Ventures, a Winchester real estate company. 

At the time, Christine Diarbakerly, the company’s founder, pledged to invest $12 million to turn the 35,000-square-foot brick property into two dozen upscale apartments. Her plan included units on the second through fifth floors while the ground level was to feature shared-office space, modeled after the Cambridge Innovation Center, where more than 900 startups share working areas. 

But one year later, Diarbakerly abandoned her proposal because she failed to find a tenant for the 5,000-square-foot first-floor space.

Be Developer Group, an Atlanta firm, paid $945,000 for the shuttered property in 2016. CEO Chirag Savaliya said he would invest $4 million to build 31 condominiums or apartments upstairs with commercial space on the first floor. 

That plan too was abandoned.

But Michael Donovan, ISD’s director, said BGI is on track to make the adaptive reuse of the property a reality.

“It’s another instance where transit-oriented development is helping to revitalize Lynn,” he said.

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