City website’s mystery address turns out to be real

March 29, 2013
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An unusual street address used as a sample on a City real estate website turns out to be linked to a real-life condo recently involved in a mold cleanup problem.

The sample address on the City’s Assessing Department site was intended to be fictional, and it is a “complete accident, a complete fluke” that it links to an actual place, said Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) spokesperson Melina Schuler.

The site (cityofboston.gov/assessing/search) allows users to look up property ownership and tax information for any Boston real estate. To suggest all the ways a user can look up information, the site offers some Boston-flavored samples, including the name “John Kennedy,” the street address of City Hall and the property parcel number for Fenway Park.

But a fourth sample is unfamiliar: “109 Seventh Street, Apt. A.” That address does not exist, but there is a very similar address in South Boston at 109 W. 7th St., Apt. A. When the sample address is looked up on the website, the real-life Southie property comes up. And the records show that property as owned by the BRA.

The Gazette inquired why the unfamiliar address was used as a sample and why the BRA owned a Southie condo.

Schuler said the condo is a deed-restricted affordable housing unit sold by the City’s Department of Neighborhood Development (DND) to a private owner. Recently, the owner had a “mold problem” requiring a costly cleanup that could threaten the affordability of the property. The BRA stepped in to buy the unit and pay for the mold cleanup, assuring it would remain affordable, Schuler said.

The BRA sold the unit to a private owner at an affordable price last July, an ownership change not yet updated on the Assessing Department website, she said.

Schuler said it is a coincidence that the sample address on the Assessing Department search site is so similar to the Southie condo. But she could not explain why someone invented the odd, fictional address as a sample alongside the familiar ones using Boston landmarks and legends. The City’s press office did not respond to a request for comment.

Schuler said she does not know whether the sample address will be changed. As of last week, it still appeared on the site.