Salem, Mass.—Construction is slated to begin this May on the Old Salem Jail property. Except now the plan is to turn most of the units into rental apartments not condos, thanks to the struggling real estate market.
New Boston Ventures, a Boston-based developer, was chosen by the city about two years ago to convert the abandoned nearly 200-year-old jail into condominiums, a restaurant, and a jail exhibit. No rental units were part of the original plans. The developer plans to add seven housing units, expanding the project from 29 to 36 total units. Twenty-two units will be leased as apartments for five years, then converted to condos. The remaining units will be sold as condos.
Maintaining the units as apartments for at least five years allows New Boston to snag historic tax credits. The jail, which locals claim is haunted, dates back to 1813; it closed in 1991.
Other changes to the plan include more parking and a different restaurant. Originally, New Boston said the project would include a French bistro. But David Goldman, New Boston’s principal, said a new restaurant is in the works. Goldman is a former aide to the late Sen. Paul Tsongas.
The condo units are expected to sell for between $300,000 and $700,000. Rents have not been disclosed.
With all the changes made by New Boston, the city of Salem is still very much onboard. City Council members, the Salem Redevelopment Authority, and other local agencies have praised the project.
The historic tax credit financing was a “creative solution to a challenging market situation,” according to Barbara Cleary, president of Historic Salem, Inc., a nonprofit architectural preservation organization.
“We feel that since the market has changed so dramatically, they’re going to need the extra units to make this project viable,” Jessica Herbert of the Salem Historical Commission said at a recent meeting of the Salem Redevelopment Authority, where Goldman presented his changes to New Boston’s plans for the granite jail on St. Peter Street.
A few citizens voiced concerns about parking and traffic. Officials from an adjacent Catholic church expressed concerns that residents would park in their parking lot. St. John the Baptist Church, which holds evening events, owns a large parking lot next to the jail.
New Boston agreed to ease parking issues during the construction phase by providing five parking passes to the Museum Place Mall garage for residents at a nearby seniors housing facility and seven permanent passes in the city garage for residents at the jail property once the development is completed.