Mayor: Time for 615-619 Centre rehab to move

August 13, 2010
By

David Taber


Gazette Photo by David Taber Renovations appeared to have stalled as of late July at 615-619 Centre St. Work has now reportedly resumed after urging from Boston Mayor Thomas Menino.

Boston Mayor Thomas Menino last week urged JP businessman Christ Stamatos to finish long-delayed work on a burned-out commercial building at 615-619 Centre St. and threatened legal action if he does not.

If the Stamatos family does not soon show “significant progress” on the work by Sept. 1, the city will take them to court, Menino said in a phone interview Aug. 3.

“The windows are ready to go in and the scaffolding will come down in 30 to 45 days,” Stamatos said, speaking to the Gazette later in the week.

The building, the former home of Century 21 Pondside Realty and three retail businesses, has been vacant since a 2006 firebombing. In March 2009, Stamatos got Boston Redevelopment Authority approval to renovate it and add a partial second story.

Work has progressed slowly since then. After a year and four months, the renovations do not appear to be near completion.

“It’s obvious they do not care about life on Centre Street,” Menino said.

The building was boarded up prior to renovations, but since work began its large storefront windows on Centre Street have been left open—guarded only by low chain link fences that leave the site potentially accessible to trespassers. Scaffolding—which appears to be supporting a portion of the buildings upper story overhanging the sidewalk—has remained in place for months, at least.

“I will not stand for excuses anymore,” Menino said, “We are going to do everything we can. We will throw the book at them,” if apparent progress is not made at the site by Sept. 1, he said.

Stamatos said he has recently been in communication with city officials, “to let them know where we stand.”

Dot Joyce, a spokesperson from the Mayor’s Office, told the Gazette that city inspectors from the Inspectional Services Department (ISD) had recently visited the site and observed work going on there.

Menino said ISD would visit the site regularly in the coming months to confirm progress is being made.

According to reports to the Jamaica Plain Problem Properties Committee, as of early July, no work has been done at the site since Oct. 2009, Robert Torres, an aide to state Rep. Liz Malia and regular Problem Properties Committee attendee, told the Gazette.

JP’s Problem Properties Committee is group of neighborhood activists, police and city and local elected officials that monitors derelict properties in the neighborhood. Torres said the committee has been encouraging Stamatos to resume work and to make the site more secure.

“It would be wonderful to have some retail there, especially if it pulls business toward us,” said Jeb Taylor, co-owner of New Leaf Flores at 599 Centre St., during a recent Gazette visit to the block.

Paul Bryant, of JP Comics & Games at 603 Centre St., expressed similar sentiments, “I’d like to see the places get finished and filled,” he said.

At community meetings in 2007, reviewing his plans for the building, Stamatos said he planned to re-open three storefronts on the ground-floor of the building and use the new second floor as offices for Century 21.

The Stamatos family owns property and runs businesses throughout JP and Boston, including the Robinwood Café & Grill at 536 Centre St. and Stony Brook Wine & Spirits on Boylston Street near the Stony Brook Orange Line T Station. Both of those properties have been dramatically renovated in recent years.

The family also owns the building that currently houses Century 21 and Ace Hardware at 656 Centre Street. Ace Hardware is run by Christ’s cousin, Chris Stamatos.

The 615-619 Centre St. property is held by George, James and Sam Stamatos, according to documents available on the city assessing department web site.

“The Stamatos family has been an important influence on Centre Street for the last generation. I urge them to clean up this blight on the business district,” Carlos Icaza, head of the Jamaica Plain Business and Professional Association, told the Gazette, speaking about the 615-619 Centre Street building.

Inspectional Services Department spokesperson Lisa Timberlake told the Gazette that Stamatos’s building permit is open-ended.

In an e-mail in late July, Katie Ward, a spokesperson from the mayor’s office, said $9,650.08 in back taxes were owed on the property from Fiscal Year 2010, which ended June 30.