FALL RIVER – Ramesh Izedian says that $ 400,000 is not insignificant.
“Without the funding, I’m not sure this project would be feasible,” he said.
Izedian was referring to a state grant he received earlier this month from MassDevelopment and its 11-month-old underutilized property program.
Izedian’s plan to rehabilitate and redevelop a vacant three-story building at 285-299 South Main St. is one of 20 such projects statewide that have received a total of 7 , $ 5 million from the state’s nonprofit real estate development finance agency.
The Fall River downtown apartment project is the Canadian native’s first foray into business development.
Izedian is a full time dentist who owns three dental practices, including Dentistry in the Highlands at Fall River. The other two are in Lawrence and Somerville.
Mixed-use development plans
He plans to develop 28 one- and two-bedroom apartments inside an almost 100-year-old building that was once occupied by Aetna Insurance and, before that, by Adaskin Furniture.
Izedian says rental rates will reflect current real estate market conditions. But he also didn’t rule out that some might have lower rents as “affordable housing,” if he were eligible for federal funding from the HOME investment partnership program.
In addition to the apartments – which will be located on the top two floors and at the back of the first floor that overlooks Pearl Street – the mixed-use project will include two street-level storefront, retail or office spaces. facing South Main Street.
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The project proposal also provides for the creation of an underground car park for tenants.
Izedian said the South Coast Rail commuter line that will connect Fall River to Boston’s South Station by the end of 2023 was not a factor in his decision to proceed with his project.
Izedian – who began working in a Fall River dental office in 1992 at the current location of the Fall River Justice Center courthouse – said he purchased 285-299 South Main St. in 2016 with plan to try and help revitalize a long-stagnant downtown.
“My office manager at the time told me when she was a kid how busy downtown was with everyone walking around,” he said. “It’s such a shame that a lot of these old city centers can’t come back.
“The neighborhood needs families to move in for gentrification. “
How the MassDevelopment grant works
Izedian said that MassDevelopment’s $ 400,000 grant will not only help offset costs, but also speed up the bank financing he needs to get the project started.
“The bank is looking at your debt and if you can’t pay with the income generated, they’re not interested,” he said.
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The Underutilized Properties program grant was secured for Izedian by Bristol County Economic Development Consultants nonprofit 501 (c) (4), located in the Cherry & Webb building on South Main Street, and its Executive Vice President Ken Fiola.
“We have to do it together,” said Izedian, referring to the help he received from Fiola and MassDevelopment.
Start of work in summer
He said the MassDevelopment grant states that its funding must be in place by a certain date in March. Once that was achieved, he said he would go through the municipal authorization process.
“It would be great if we could start construction by the summer,” said Izedian.
Fiola said construction is expected to take around a year. He said the $ 400,000 will be released by MassDevelopment once the funding is secured.
Regarding compensation for Bristol County Economic Development Consultants, Fiola said his business management office is paid an hourly rate by Izedian and will also receive a percentage of the state grant.
ZBA exemption requests
Izedian’s 285-299 South Main LLC had already been granted a waiver last spring by the city’s zoning appeal board to develop 17 apartments.
The ZBA is holding another hearing to consider a second exemption to allow this number to increase to 28 apartments.
Fiola says the design of the 28 apartments is better suited and more in keeping with the character of the building.
He estimates that each apartment unit will cost Izedian between $ 275,000 and $ 325,000, which translates into a total investment ranging from nearly $ 8 million to just over $ 9 million.
This does not include the cost of building a lower level parking garage and installing a new elevator or upgrading an existing elevator.
Fiola said there are three categories of tenants who will be drawn to the new apartments, which will have granite kitchen counters and individual washers and dryers.
Empty nests that no longer want to live in a suburban house that is too large for their needs is one of them.
The second category is the young professional who commutes to Providence, Cape Town or the Boston area. And the third, he said, would be the apartment dwellers in Fall River who aspire and can afford more modern amenities.
Fiola says the benefits to the city center cannot be understated.
“The biggest public benefit of market-priced apartments in the city center will be a constituency of people with disposable income,” he said, adding that “I really think this will be successful and spur future investment. It’s contagious.
Fiola said the commuter train line from Fall River to Boston will inevitably have a positive effect on the downtown area as well.
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More than a dozen businesses and organizations, including Fall River TDI Partnership and One SouthCoast Chamber, have sent a letter to the city’s zoning council urging it to approve the exemption for the 28 apartments at 285-299 South. Main St.
Possible future projects for two other properties
Last May, two men walking on the sidewalk outside 285-299 South Main St. were injured, one seriously, when they were hit in the head by bricks that fell from the roof where worked a construction team.
Izedian said the unfortunate incident would not prevent his project from moving forward.
He also owns two other downtown buildings on the west side of South Main Street.
These include the Besse System building at 221-229 South Main St. and a much longer segmented building just south of Spring Street whose tenants include Pacheco’s Furniture, Dollar Fun and Nexus Property Management.
Izedian says that depending on the success of 285-299 South Main, he could eventually convert the second floor of this two-story building, which is now used for storage, into multiple apartments.
“We’ll see how it goes,” he said.