May 27, 2015
An Environmental Impact Report is being prepared for the demolition of Colonial Revival courtyard apartments at 423 Ocean Avenue to enable construction of a new 13-unit condominium complex. The property was landmarked in 2006 by a unanimous vote of the commissioners. The owners lost an appeal intended to overturn the designation by a unanimous vote of the city council. In 2013, an application for a certificate of economic hardship was filed, and the EIR now underway is a step in that process.
In order to grant a certificate of economic hardship in the case of demolition, the Landmarks Commission must make a finding that the designated landmark cannot be remodeled or rehabilitated in a manner which would allow a reasonable use of or return from such property to a property owner. The Conservancy has filed a detailed letter, outlining property’s historic significance and, according to state and local requirements, the analysis that must take place in the EIR if a finding of economic hardship is to be supported. Specifically, the letter notes that the financial return from preservation need not be superior to that of redevelopment, only “reasonable,” and requests that the analysis should include use of all financial incentives available to designated properties. Finally, renovation costs incurred because of the owner’s neglect cannot be considered. We are hopeful that if all these considerations are taken into account, it will be shown that there is a viable preservation alternative and the hardship certificate will be denied, opening the way for a productive use of the historic property.