Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Antique Armory Building Set to Get Needed Restoration

By Christina Georgiou

The old National Guard armory building at the corner of Seventh and
Northampton streets in Easton's West Ward will be getting the attention
it needs soon, new owners Odil and Peter Koorie said Monday evening.
 The armory building at the corner of Seventh and Northampton streets in Easton's West Ward has largely been used as a warehouse and for storage for the past few decades, and that use was officially approved again by the city's zoning hearing board again Monday night, but it won't stay that way for very much longer.

The iconic castle-like structure at 687 Northampton St. is in need of much repair work, said new owners Peter and Odil Koorie, and the couple plans to sink about $150,000--three times as much as they paid for the property late last year--into the site for its rehabilitation.

"It's in need of a total renovation," Peter Koorie told zoning hearing board members, adding that plans to repair the windows, a leaking roof, and fixing its doors, along with removing rust stains on the building's facade and flag pole are part of immediate plans for the property.

"We want to go in...and really bring the beauty back to it," he said. "We just really want to make that corner beautiful again."

Odil and Peter Koorie, left, along with their lawyer
Daniel Cohen, talk about their plans to renovate the
old armory building at the corner of Seventh and Northampton
streets in Easton's West Ward at Monday evening's zoning
hearing board meeting.
It's just a beautiful building, and we want to bring it back to life," said Odil Koorie. "Everything is going to stay the same on the outside."

But to do that, the city requires that an official use for the property be attached to the application. For now, the Koories plan to store cases of beer for their business Beer Brothers down the street, along with some personal items in the space. The use is temporary, they said, estimating that renovation work and finding the right permanent purpose for the building will take about two years.

Some ideas that have been floated for the property in the past include a farmers' market, a culinary school, or an arts center, but deciding on what will both be right for the neighborhood and also be financially feasible for the new owners will take time, said Mayor Sal Panto, who attended Monday evening's zoning meeting to speak in favor of the project.

"This property is one of the most blighted in the city," he told zoning hearing board members, adding that the Koories have been meeting with city officials to discuss plans for the property since purchasing it in November of 2012. "He can't fix it up without proper permitting, and that requires a use."

Panto said while basic repairs to the property are undertaken, the city will be working with the Koories, as it does with many developers, to possibly conduct a feasibility study for what will ultimately work at that location, along with finding likely grant opportunities to help physically  develop those ideas.

"(The Koories) wanted me to be here to make sure your realize (their use request) is not a ploy," the mayor said.

The old National Guard armory building at Seventh and Northampton streets
in Easton's West Ward, seen here in a century-old postcard image, is set
to get much-needed repairs and be restored to its former glory
after the city's zoning hearing board approved a temporary
use as a warehouse and storage facility Monday evening.
While using the space for storage is a non-conforming use for the neighborhood and requires a variance, any use at the location would also require special zoning hearing board approval, said lawyer Daniel Cohen, representing the Koories.

"This is a seriously non-conforming structure with a seriously non-conforming use," he said, adding a promise that he and the Koories will again appear before the board when the final use for the huge space is decided upon.

Cohen added that the couple is heavily invested in the neighborhood, living just a few blocks away on South 10th Street, along with other close family members that own other nearby properties.

Peter Koorie's brother, Sharbel Koorie, is in the process of renovating the former Northampton Glass building into a Lebanese restaurant, Daddy's Place, which is expected to be complete and open sometime this fall, he noted.

Only one member of the public commented on the proposal.

Warren Butler, who lives about two blocks away, said he wasn't initially sure about the Koories' intentions, but now supports the project.

"After hearing the mayor, it sounds like a really good deal because it's a bad place," he said. "It sounds like a good idea, and I wish you the best of luck."

The zoning hearing board voted unanimously in favor of the variance.

"We'll see you again in a couple of years," said board vice-chair Michael Civitella.

Updated at 5:30 p.m. to add a current photo of the armory building.

1 comment:

  1. This building would make a beautiful place of worship.