267-281 Medford Street
A proposal to convert this large, industrial warehouse into artists' studios and lofts has been tied up for more than 15 years.
Built in 1918, the enormous brick building at Medford and Terminal Street has been vacant for 25 years.
It has about 300 windows, is five stories tall and runs the length of Terminal Street to Building #1. It's built of brick and fills 22,500 square feet.
The structure has always been a warehouse: first for cargo coming in at the terminal -- the Wiggin Terminals shipped lumber, cotton, wood pulp and cocoa beans -- and then, between the 1940s and the 1980s, it housed giftwares, children's toys and teddy bears for Nancy Sales Company.
Since Nancy Sales Company moved to a larger, single-story building in Chelsea, the Medford Street building has been empty. Any attempts to turn the warehouse into residential units have failed. A building permit has been issued -- the owner of the property plans to convert the structure into 124 residential units, to be used as “artists’ studios and residences”-- but nothing has yet been built.
It seems that the property is made up almost entirely of filled tidelands, and, although an 1848 map even shows the property extending into the Mystic River, the land does not have a shoreline. Nevertheless it was designated ‘DPA’ (designated port area) by MassPort and Massachusetts Coastal Zone Management. A building with this type of designation can only be used for industrial water-dependent industries. Residential buildings, and their requirements for parking spaces, do not fall into that category.
On the building is a sign with Suffolk Company’s phone number as lessor. A phone call led to a brief conversation with Michael Rauseo, the owner of the property. He followed up with an e-mail the next morning.
An edited version of Rauseo’s e-mail follows.
In 1994, Suffolk Medford LLC (an affiliate of the Suffolk Company) purchased the Medford Street property and their proposal to convert the building into 124 loft-style apartments was warmly received by the neighborhood. Neighbors wrote letters of support, the Charlestown Neighborhood Council voted unanimously to back the project and the Mayor’s office joined in the blessing.
At the end of 1994, the project received a variance from the City of Boston’s Zoning Board of Appeal to permit the residential use over the objections of Massport. Massport subsequently appealed the Zoning Board’s decision, the appeal was settled in 1999 and the project received a building permit in 2000.
Building of the lofts, however, was not able to proceed. Even though Boston’s Zoning Board of Appeal agreed, the property still sat in the Commonwealth’s DPA, which prohibited residential uses. To deal with that prohibition, Rauseo submitted a petition to the state agency Coastal Zone Management (CZM) to have the lines of the DPA rewritten to exclude the 267 Medford Street property.
Anticipating the possibility of many years of delays and objections through the CZM process, Rauseo ultimately asked Rep. Eugene O’Flaherty for help. O’Flaherty sponsored a bill that removed the 267 Medford Street property from the DPA.
According to Rauseo the National Park Service has approved the plans and the only thing left to be done is for the Massachusetts Historic Commission, which needs to approve this historic rehabilitation, to issue the go-ahead.
At the end of his e-mail Rauseo wrote: "We expect the MHC to be complete with its work in about a year. We look forward to restoring this handsome building and putting it back to use."
- Where is it?
267-281 Medford Street
- When was it built?
- Who owns it?
Michael Rauseo as trustee of Suffolk Medford Realty Trust
- What was it built for and who was the first occupant?
As an industrial warehouse, part of the Wiggin Terminal Company complex; designated Wiggin Terminal Building #3.
- Why was it built?
To warehouse export and import materials coming through Wiggins Terminals.
- How was it built?
It is a five-story brick and heavy timber frame building. The building is divided laterally into 10-foot by 30-foot bays and across its width by a series of brick firewalls. The lower four floors have heights of 12 feet; the height of the fifth floor is 13.5 feet. Floor areas are divided up into rooms of approximately 3,000 square feet each.
- What are the future plans for the structure?
To convert the building into 124 loft apartments.
Information for this article was compiled from several resources, including: www.mass.gov/czm/mysticriverdpa.pdf;
Nancy Sales_mystic_dpa_appeal_decistion_and_boundary_update_2007.pdf; and e-mail and telephone interview.