Left this thread of construction updates by the wayside for some time, given that little goes on during the winter months. But with sunnier days activity has returned to Blubber Hollow, so another update is past due.
Starting from the west and proceeding east along the North River come first to River Rock Apartments and townhouses squeezed onto the ledge between Boston and Goodhue Streets. When last visited the central apartment house was completed only needing interior trim and paint, while the northerly townhouses had been topped off with interior utility work commencing, and the southerly townhouses having the foundation marked off with steel posts but concrete not poured. Months later the status remains much the same. Trim on the apartments is completed but with landscaping still incomplete the building cannot be occupied; northerly townhouses have all utilities in place and trim work commencing; southerly townhouses still a shell of a foundation.
Indeed progress seems to have stepped back a bit, what with the westerly brick parapet, completed months ago, now wrapped in tarps, perhaps for some unseen brickwork repointing. Opening is still promised by mid-spring, with applications for both apartment rentals and townhouse ownership being taken now.
Up Goodhue St from River Rock where it merges into Grove St we come to the site of the former Salem and Oil Grease. When last visited on these pages the nearly century-old main buildings had been demolished, leaving the foundation and two newer cinder block buildings in place when heavy equipment was withdrawn for the winter. Heavy equipment has returned, and in a sure sign that this time the demolition team is serious a Porta-potty has been placed on the site.
But the two cinder block buildings, though interiors have been ripped out, still stand, at least partially. Test digs, looking for toxic droppings perhaps, dot the site.
Now passing along the North River several hundred yards downriver we come to the site of the former Salem Suede on Flint Street and the adjoining former Bonfanti Leather factory on Mason St. In 2007 plans were approved for 164 apartments in four buildings to fill the site. In the first wave of activity in 2012 the decrepit buildings were demolished. Then the developer pulled out, citing an inability to get sufficient financial backing. Another developer picked up the baton and resumed site prep work in 2016,
only to themselves pull out, citing an inability to get sufficient financial backing. In 2018 a third development team came on board. In Spring 2019 heavy machinery and laborers now fill the site, digging and marking and surveying. Here’s to hope that the third time is the charm. Salem Suede closed shop decades ago, and the eyesore of a vacant lot has since been home to nobody but numerous murine vermin.
Carousel of Undevelopment
Development of the aforementioned Salem Oil & Grease site was itself delayed for some ten years when the first developer pulled out, citing – speak up if this has been heard before – an inability to get sufficient financial backing.
It’s a game that gets played often in Salem. A local development firm (well-capitalized national firms don’t even consider Salem) plans a large project with expectation of reasonable ROI. Neighbors and city council raise hue and cry about the “massive” size of the proposal, so the developer cuts the scale way back to eventually get city approval. With approved plans in hand the project is shopped around to investment firms. After running the numbers all deem the project marginal, money-wise. Unable to get financial backing the developer sells out to someone else, following the dictum of “somewhere there’s a bigger fool than I”. The project is stalled while the bigger fool reclimbs the chain of needed approvals and permits, only to then itself face difficulty getting needed capital. Around and around the “undevelopment” carousel goes / if it ever stops nobody knows.
Continuing downriver we come to Ice Cream Way on Mason Street, site of the former Bay State Creamery. Progress has been substantial on the conversion of the former creamery into six two-story luxury apartments.Of the three townhouse buildings to surround the creamery building, the first, which incorporated an existing two-family Queen Anne house, is completed and occupied; the corner building is erected and going full speed on interior work; the third is still only a dream.