Facing a potential cost of roughly $1 million to acquire and demolish three homes to turn into parking for Hamilton Street arts projects, the Redevelopment Agency appears to be putting that move on hold for the time being.
Commissioners were updated at tonight’s meeting on the appraisals for the three remaining Hamilton Street homes that were initially to be acquired:
* 318-320 Hamilton St. (Block 167, Lot 43), appraised for $280,000, acquired in November 1998 for $135,000, according to PropertyShark.com.
* 332-336 Hamilton St. (Block 167, Lot 41), appraised for $280,000, most recent sale price not available.
* 342-344 Hamilton St. (Block 167, Lot 40), appraised for $220,000, acquired in November 1995 for $124,000.
Two homes already have been acquired and/or demolished with a plan to create parking for the black box theater and amphitheater. The Redevelopment Agency earlier this year decided earlier this year to focus efforts on the black box theater, where renovations began last month, while putting interim parking at the site of the former Hamilton Laundry building, where an amphitheater was planned.
While appraisals totaled $775,000, City Administrator and Redevelopment Director Peter Pelissier told commissioners that the cost to demolish the multifamily homes likely would push the total cost toward $1 million. He sought input from the agency to give the City Council direction prior to its regular meeting this Monday night. The lot would have provided about 40 spaces, out of a total 170 spaces slated for the Hamilton Street developments. It would not impact operations of the Arts District projects, only the aesthetics, Pelissier said.
Acquiring the homes is “what we decided to do,” Chairman William Rack said, adding that acquiring the properties and demolishing the homes would continue to clean up the area. Three of seven commissioners were absent tonight but Commissioner Tim Nash expressed concerns with the rising costs of the arts projects. “I have serious reservations about whether we have the money to spend,” he said. Nash said he may have supported the parking initiative before change-orders pushed the project past $6 million but with additional interim parking at the amphitheater site, he didn’t see the need to acquire the homes for parking. Rack later changed his mind and agreed with Nash.
The proposed lot was included in the funding for renovating the Bell Building into a black box theater when change-orders were approved in March. If the homes are not acquired, Pelissier said, that money won’t be spent for the lot. “We didn’t have the appraisals at the time of the ordinance, so we didn’t know what the cost was,” he said.
The amphitheater site must be resurfaced in any event since the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) requires it be capped, according to Pelissier, who does not see construction of the amphitheater in the “foreseeable future.”
Director of Community Development Cindy Solomon reminded commissioners that the homes were targeted for acquisition when the plan was the build a 1,300-seat amphitheater which might have created noise issues for residents in that area, but less so with a 220-seat black box theater.