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Board OKs office-to-apartments conversion on Franklin Street downtown

The Zoning Board of Appeal today approved a developer's plans to convert a six-story office building at 281 Franklin St. into 15 apartments, 3 to be rented as affordable.

Developer Adam Burns needed zoning-board approval because the 1878 building sits in a groundwater-protection district. The board approved the project after Burns's attorney submitted documentation to the city Groundwater Protection Trust that the building would not change the amount of rainwater and melting snow that would "recharge" the ground underneath, rather than flowing into storm sewers. The project did not require any variances.

The $1.6-million conversion project is one of the first under a city pilot that grants tax breaks in an attempt to turn empty downtown office space into residences. Burns is eligible for a 29-year break on property tax for the building, through an abatement of up to 75% of the building's assessed value.

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I’d like to see more conversion of unused office space to housing. Many other cities have repurposed old brick mill buildings, warehouses, and schools into attractive, spacious housing units. We have too many glass box and flimsy look-alike new residential buildings here, where no attempt was made to preserve even the facade of an older building. Yes, I know there are a few, but more of this needs to happen. In my South End neighborhood I can think of at least a couple of buildings that are simply rotting away due to negligence by the owners. Can’t the city do something about this? Architectural preservation seems to be disregarded now. Is it just a cost factor?

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Seem to be happening on smaller, older buildings. 4 to 6 stories, 8 to 15 units.

Those are amenable to conversion, the newer, bigger buildings seem to be the problem.

Voting closed 17