EVERETT — While the city waits to find out if a resort casino will be built on its waterfront, a $90 million construction project could transform the former Charleston Chew candy factory into a sweet spot in the Greater Boston housing market, a top state official said.
“It seems like this was a development just waiting to happen,” Gregory Bialecki, the state’s housing and economic development secretary, said during a visit to the city last Tuesday. “It’s probably less than 5 miles from downtown Boston, and it’s accessible by all sorts of roadways and public transportation.”
The long-idle factory site on lower Broadway (Route 99), near the proposed casino site, is being converted to a 328-unit luxury apartment complex to be named The Batch Yard, a nod to its legacy of chocolate making. The developer predicts the privately financed project will be a strong competitor with housing options in Cambridge, Medford, and Somerville.
“It’s going to be really hot housing,” said Andy Montelli, a principal at Post Road Residential, a development firm based in Fairfield, Conn. “It’s going to be very high end.”
Bialecki visited Everett as part of a tour of urban communities north of Boston that started in April. The secretary and his staff have also visited Chelsea, Malden, Revere, Somerville, and Winthrop. On Tuesday, the tour will end in Medford.
“The locations and the demographics of these communities make sense and, from our perspective, have a lot of opportunity for development growth,” Bialecki said.
He praised the work of local officials to encourage new growth in urban areas. “The municipal leaders in these places want things to happen,” Bialecki said. “They want more private investment.”
In Everett, a $1.2 billion resort casino proposed by Las Vegas developer Steve Wynn is the largest development on the drawing board.
The project is no sure bet. Wynn is competing against other proposals at Suffolk Downs on the Revere-East Boston line and a Foxwoods facility on vacant industrial land in Milford for the license the state’s Gambling Commission is expected to award for Greater Boston in April 2014.
A casino should stimulate, but not dominate, the local economy, Bialecki said. “You have to think of it as a catalyst for other economic opportunities.”
Mayor Carlo DeMaria Jr. of Everett, a strong supporter of the Wynn proposal, said the resort would help the city achieve its goal of redeveloping lower Broadway.
“There are a lot more empty buildings, particularly along the [railroad] bed, toward the east, that could be redeveloped,” said DeMaria, who led Bialecki on the tour.
Officials also visited Night Shift Brewery, a craft beer maker on lower Broadway, and River’s Edge, a residential and commercial development shared with Malden and Medford.
The former Charleston Chew site has been vacant since the factory closed in 1985 after production moved to a Nabisco facility in Cambridge. An earlier proposal to build 200 condominiums stalled.
The four-story concrete factory has been gutted, and three floors will be added. A total of 160 apartments will be located in the seven-story building, said Montelli, who added, “It will have a great roof deck.”
Two new buildings, which will have 168 apartments and a parking garage, will also be built in the complex. Studio, one-, and two-bedroom apartments will make up the bulk of the units, with about a dozen three-bedroom apartments.
Montelli said the first units are due to open by next spring.