SOMERVILLE — For a decade and a half, the onetime grocery store in Somerville’s Winter Hill neighborhood has sat vacant along Broadway.
Peer through the window and you’d see a scene like something from a post-apocalyptic movie; a place neighbors once roamed with shopping carts. The imprint of the words “Star Market,” where letters once were, are still visible on the outside of the building.
Residents have long considered it a blight on the neighborhood and have grown antsy about the wasted potential of such a large plot of land in an increasingly in-demand area.
Now, in a major step forward, the property has officially come under new ownership.
It finally sold earlier this month for $22 million to Mark Development, a firm based in Newton and New York that’s been planning to demolish the decrepit structure and replace it with two six-story buildings. The project will include 288 units of rental housing — 132 of them affordable — along with ground-level retail.
“It’s an absolute win for the community,” said City Councilor Jake Wilson. “Going from a blighted, abandoned lot to the kind of thing pretty much everyone rallied behind, that’s sort of a dream development in my book.”
The proposed project earned support from neighbors over several years of public hearings. The city, in an effort to support the construction of so many affordable units, offered significant tax breaks to the developer.
Financing for the project is still pending, Wilson said, so it may be some time before construction can actually begin.
Plans for the site, which were approved by the city, call for 13,640 square feet of retail space on the ground floors, as well as a public park and plaza and indoor community meeting and “arts and creative enterprise” space, according to a project website. The building is roughly a half-mile from the new Gilman Square T stop on the Green Line Extension and will not have on-site parking.
“We couldn’t be more pleased to take the next step in bringing this important project to life. Every aspect of the project design was influenced by community feedback — and made better for it,” Robert Korff, chief executive of Mark Development, said in a statement.
He added that “community support for this project” and “our strong relationships with the city and state officials who advocated for its many benefits will help us move forward.”
Wilson, who has lived around the corner from the site for nearly 20 years, said he is personally looking forward to seeing ground-level retail tenants brought in, including possible restaurants, which he said would help bring some nightlife into that part of the city. He also hopes a small food purveyor or convenience store might also open in the space.
The sale is 15 years in the making. After Star Market closed in 2008, plans to replace the grocery store chain with a new tenant — including, for a while, discussions about opening an Ocean State Job Lot — stalled amid a contentious relationship between the city and the building’s prior owner.
Winter Hill residents have been eager to see signs of change around the corner, and were buzzing recently as chain-link fences— symbols that the dilapidated property had finally changed hands — popped up in the grocery store’s long-abandoned parking lot.
“It’s been this constant sort of reminder of the lack of progress in this particular area,” said City Councilor Jesse Clingan, who represents the neighborhood. “Progress also comes with that bittersweet downside of the fear of gentrification. But at the same time, the absolute outcry from everybody in the community, from every walk, is that they want to see something in that location other than a rotting carcass of a Star Market.”