St. John’s buildings described as decaying while developers face off
The original developer of North Cambridge apartments — which are described as decaying rapidly — and the buyer of its mortgage will face off June 17 to decide which gets the right to finish construction.
The decision via a Boston bankruptcy court delays an auction of the 2.2-acre Cambridge Crossing site at Yerxa Road and Rindge Avenue a fifth time — to June 21, nine months after it was first scheduled.
The former St. John’s Religious Education Catholic school and convent consists of three buildings, only one of which was finished and rented by developer Joseph Perroncello before he declared bankruptcy Nov. 3. Perroncello and the holder of his mortgage have different ideas on what it will take to wrap up work on what remains.
In March, Perroncello said Cambridge Crossing was 75 percent done but needed $3.5 million more worth of work. He said he’d already put in $9 million of his own in addition to the $15.5 million of the original backers and mortgage holders, Webster Bank.
The mortgage holders as of May 9, Broder Properties, of Boston and Weston, has a starkly different view of the six-year-old project, and one neighbors — considering their despair over poor conditions and disruptive work hours over the years — may find frustrating.
While Broder doesn’t give an estimate of what it will take to finish work, a description in a Friday legal filing is hardly optimistic.
The unfinished buildings on Rindge Avenue “are in deplorable condition. Many of the windows in the buildings are broken. The roofs of both buildings are leaking severely and causing serious damage. Interior work in each of the buildings is exposed to the elements due to the broken windows,” wrote James F. Coffey, of Boston’s Nutter McClennen & Fish LLP. “In sum, the property is an abandoned construction site that is losing value day by day.”
In addition, the rent from the 14 rented apartments in the 19-unit building on Yerxa Road “are no longer sufficient to meet the minimum monthly costs of maintaining the property including, without limitation, tax payments that are accruing for real estate taxes due to the city,” Coffey said. “The failure to meet those expenses will cause further deterioration of the property and impair its value upon foreclosure and may likely create a health and safety issue for the tenants … that could cause even further deterioration of the value.”
Broder confirmed that the apartments are occupied illegally, since the Yerxa Road building has only ever had a temporary certificate of occupancy.
Taken together, the situation at Cambridge Crossing risks revocation of Perroncello’s special permit, affordable housing covenants and building permits “due to the debtor’s abandonment of construction activities, failure to comply with health and safety codes and failure to rent … to low-income tenants as required,” Coffey said, citing the problems as arguments in favor of allowing Broder to foreclose and hold an auction.
Perroncello’s opposition rests on what could be considered a technicality: That although Broder took on the restrictions facing Webster Bank in dealing with the property, the language of key legal documents didn’t grant Broder the same rights. That means Broder has no right to an auction, even though it bought the property from a bank that did, Perroncello says.
Perroncello and his lawyers have until noon Friday to respond to Broder’s filing, then can argue the case at 10 a.m. June 17 before Judge Frank J. Bailey.