After more than a decade of permitting and legal battles between residents living next to the former Winthrop Hospital building and the owners of the building, progress seems to be developing – now that there is a new set of owners of the property.
The soon-to-be new owners and developers of the former Winthrop hospital building met with interested neighbors and area residents during an open community meeting Monday night at the E.B. Newton Cultural Center, to discuss their ideas about re-purposing the building and to get feedback about their plans.
The principal players in the Winthrop Manor LP partnership team told the crowd that they are under agreement to purchase the site for approximately $3.4 million and said that they would like to “recast the existing permits” to allow the site to be developed as an assisted living facility instead.
For all intents and purposes, the meeting was a startling success, as neighbors came out to ask questions and listen to the developers plans. Most seemed to be impressed, with several voicing their support for the new project even before the meeting had concluded.
“If we came out here to night and you told us you didn’t want this kind of development, you’d never hear about it again,” said new principal owner James Robertson of Origen Property, which heads up a partnership group, that negotiated the purchase and sale agreement with the current owners, State Financial Group, LLC.
Robertson, the team’s developer Steve Chapman and the contractor, Tom Donnelly, who would carry out construction phase of the development, addressed neighbors questions and concerns during a one hour meeting that was organized by precinct Councilor Jim Letterie.
In essence, the developers told the neighborhood that after touring the building and surrounding property, they felt the building would be better suited to be renovated as an assisted living facility, which would mean less traffic and parking and more greenspace for the former Hospital and its surrounding neighborhood.
However, the developers were also clear that due to the previous decade long battle between the neighborhood and the current owner, they have the permits they need to proceed and build a condominium development with up to 74 condominiums units and 128 parking spaces.
“We are here trying to gather a sense if (this plan) is acceptable, if it is not, we will go with what we have,” said Chapman.
Though they would prefer to develop the property into something that would be more suitable to the neighborhood and still beneficial to the town and themselves.
Robertson added, “this will help us put forth a proposal that is good for everyone. . .we’re honorable people and are willing to work within your parameters.”
According to informational sheets that were handed out at the meeting, the current permits would allow a 74 unit condominium, that would likely be home to up to 187 residents and require 128 parking spaces. The existing permits allow for a build-out of the roof space, which would cause an increase in the overall height of the building and the project would result in a site with about 28 percent green space.
The new proposal, to develop a mix of independent, assisted living and a small dementia care unit would result in 120 units, but with only 130 residents. The assisted care facility would require only 70 parking spaces and allow for about 40 percent of outdoor open space on site. Additionally, there would be no change to the envelope (outside dimensions) of the building.
Other positive impacts of the new proposal include the creation of approximately 75 to 80 local jobs, and a shorter construction schedule, which could see the new building open and operational approximately 24 months after permits are awarded.
The developers are also hoping for an expedited permitting process, of two to three months, since they could move forward with the existing permits right away.
Council President Peter Gill said during the meeting that he has spoken with the chairs of the Board of Appeals and Planning Board and both boards recognize the importance of the project and are willing to get the project on their agendas as soon as possible.