Owner proposes second floor for burned building

David Taber

Rendering by Forte Architecture + Design
Plans to rebuild the burned-out commercial building at 617-619 Centre St. call for the addition of a second floor.

JP CENTER—Local property and real estate company owner Christ Stamatos unveiled plans to add a second story to the building he owns at 617-619 Centre St. at a Sept. 12 meeting with neighbors to the property.

The building has been vacant since an August 2006 fire that was the subject of an arson investigation. But, Stamatos said, the brick edifice is still structurally sound.

Since evacuating the 617-619 premises, Stamatos has been running his real estate business, Century 21 Pondside, out of a storefront he owns at 650 Centre St. He said he neither plans to move new tenants into the old building, nor expand his about a dozen-employee workforce. The 2,400-square- foot second floor will provide space for a conference room, a kitchen area and a lounge, he said.
The building has been in Stamatos’s family for 40 years, and Christ has owned it for 10. His father used to run a convenience store at the location. “I am not planning to go anywhere,” Stamatos said.

At about 24 feet, the second story is within the maximum allowed height for the area but would require variances for floor-area ratio and side and rear yard setbacks.

The existing building already violates side yard setback requirements, which call for a 10-foot setback. It ends about three feet from the three-unit condominium at 609 Centre St.

Michael Tang, who recently bought the second-story unit at 609 Centre, said he is concerned a second-story built so close will block natural light flowing through his windows.

“If there were to be a second story, I would essentially get no natural light…I know you want to do it. I would rather it wasn’t there,” Tang said.

Tang also said he fears the lack of light in his unit will decrease its value.

The possibility that conforming to the zoning code by moving the building’s north wall back from the property line, or at least cutting 10 feet off of the second story, was raised by neighbors multiple times.

“Its interesting that the zoning code is like that, because it seems pretty logical,” one neighbor said.

Neighbors to the rear, where the existing structure violates the required 20-foot rear yard setback, though not as drastically as on the side, expressed similar concerns.

“You will be affecting people who have children and kitchens and lives,” said one rear abutter.

But architect Edward Forte said the building would not block a significant amount of natural light in the rear. “It will mostly be casting a shadow toward Centre Street,” Forte said.

While he said he does not think a full-scale shadow study is warranted in this case, Forte said, he might develop a few graphics to display the building’s effect on the path of sunrays.

Forte said he and Stamatos are planning to meet in the next few weeks to discuss how they can alter the proposal to deal with neighbors’ concerns. They will present the plan to neighbors again before soliciting approval from other community organizations, he said. A hearing with the zoning Board of Appeal is scheduled for November.

Stamatos’s plans include the rehabilitation of the building’s other two retail storefront spaces. He will invite his former tenants, Fantasy Nails and the Eleganzar clothing shop, to move back in, he said.

And, he said, the rents will stay the same. “Small business owners keep the community thriving,” Stamatos said.

His brother George, who also attended the meeting, concurred. “We own a lot of property and we don’t need to gouge the rents up to what they could be for JP,” he said.

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