Community meeting offers updates on the Treadmark

At a packed Wednesday meeting in the Parish of All Saints, Ashmont, community members were given an update on the state of the Treadmark fire in late June. The cause is still under investigation, and building owner-operators Trinity Financial Inc. are in a holding pattern with inspectors as they await an assessment to inform the extent of work needed to rebuild the mixed-use structure, which was about 98 percent complete at the time of the fire.

Jim Keefe, a principal at Trinity, thanked the 100-odd attendees at the community meeting on the muggy evening, thunder cracking outside. The neighborhood’s support has been overwhelming and appreciated, he said, especially as many of the Trinity and Treadmark team members live in Dorchester.

“The outpouring of support and encouragement and love has just been an amazing thing,” he said, after a long round of applause from those gathered, “and it reminds me, as it has for many of us, of what a tremendous neighborhood this is. And from the bottom of my heart, we can’t thank you enough.”

Investigators are still looking into what sparked the six-alarm fire that raged for 16 hours, starting at around 2 p.m. on June 28. The structure was four stories of wood-framed construction over two floors of steel and concrete -- a building style which both developers and city officials emphasize is common throughout the city and very safe if built up to code.

Preliminary make-safe work has already taken place, said Mathieu Zahler with Trinity, including draining about seven feet of water from the basement and securing or removing structural segments that may have posed a risk to passersby or inspectors.

Still to come is a demolition of the roof and top story, which sustained the most extensive damage and need to be cleared out along with any rooftop equipment for inspectors to safely assess the remainder of the building. This could take around four weeks, Zahler said, and they anticipate starting work in the near future.

Until they can access the fifth floor and take the measure of the structure, Trinity will not have a concrete plan for reconstruction.

They are fully insured, Zahler said, “to take care of this type of damage, and we have to evaluate to what degree the insurance company will cover this building.”

Though the Treadmark was built up to code, rasing no red flags during the process about the building’s safety, an attendee asked if any work would be done to make the rebuilt Treadmark “safer than it needs to be.”

“Let me be clear, this is not an unsafe construction methodology, this is not an unsafe building,” Zahler answered. “This was a point in the construction process that’s very volatile. It was under construction, and that’s why there’s OSHA, and that's why there’s protocol so there’s no smoking around these buildings, because when they're under construction, bad things can happen.”

The sprinklers were off at the time, given the construction phase, set for a final Boston Fire Department check the next day.

If the building had been occupied, Zahler said, the fire suppression systems would have been fully operational, and “this major incident would have been a minor one.”

Of the 83 housing units, 32 were ownership condominiums on the top two floors. Four of the condominiums were income-restricted to those earning 80-100 percent of Area Median Income (AMI), the remaining 28 condos were all under Purchase and Sale agreements. Six of those owners have chosen to recoup their deposits, Zahler said at the meeting.

More than 1,000 applicants entered a random lottery for the income-restricted rental units. There are 51 Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) rental units, affordable up to 60 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI). Although 20 people have been approved for future residency through the lottery, no leases had been signed.

Those 20 residents had completed their CORI and income-level certification checks, Zahler said, but they were not told to notify any existing landlords as there had been no set move-in dates. The building was scheduled to be occupied in mid-to-late July.

Anchor tenants American Provisions, an artisanal grocer, reaffirmed their commitment to occupying the Treadmark at the meeting.

Without the final assessment, Trinity has not yet determined whether a gut rehab of the building could preserve the existing shell, or if it would need to be stripped down to the concrete base and rebuilt entirely.

Post-reconstruction, it will be the same building, with the same amenities, Zahler said -- “Treadmark 2.0.”

CoUrbanize has partnered with Trinity to take point on updates. Information and the FAQs presented at the July 12 meeting are available on that site.