The attorney representing the owner of 1188 Dorchester Ave. said this week the property is closer to becoming an “international” supermarket and could open by the end of the year. He defended the owner of the property, Khiet Tran, and said the cost of cleaning up the site, purchased in 2006 and found to be contaminated with chemicals, had skyrocketed to $500,000 and slowed down construction.
At a Tuesday night meeting of the Columbia Savin Hill Civic Association’s planning committee, attorney Kim Woongtae also cited bad weather and bureaucratic red tape as reasons for the construction delay. He also said that the site had been vandalized, with racially-tinged graffiti spray-painted onto some of the remaining windows.
The update was the first neighborhood residents say they have received since 2008.
Joe Chaisson, a longtime resident and civic activist, said construction had picked up again in the last month but added that neighbors had not been kept informed about what was happening with the property.
Other members of the civic group, which had signed off on the project before the changes and delays, complained that the project had been initially promoted as a rehabilitation of an old building, which has largely been demolished save for a brick wall on Dewar St.
The wall will likely stay up as the new building is constructed, Woongtae said. “I don’t think there will be any more demolition,” he said, adding that the project’s general contractor had decided keeping most of the building wasn’t feasible.
Woongtae said the price of decontaminating the 19,598 square-foot property, apparently once a diaper factory, was unexpected. “The bottom line is somebody needed to step up,” Woongtae said of Tran. “He did it.”
Woongtae said the price tag for the whole project could end up hitting $2 million, up from the $1.5 million Tran had originally estimated. That’s not counting the roughly $3 million that Tran paid for the property.
During the expensive clean-up, the contaminated soil had to be trucked to Maine, Woongtae said. Tran is seeking state tax credits to help cover the cost of the clean-up, he added. And Woongtae sought to place some of the responsibility for the property on the neighborhood. “They let a greedy corporation ruin the soil,” he said.
Tran is the current operator of the small store Phu Cuong Market at the corner of Dorchester Ave. and Pearl Street.
Chaisson and other members have repeatedly requested updates on the 1188 Dorchester Ave. project. On Monday, after several attempts via fax and e-mail, Chaisson hand-delivered a letter asking for an update to the Pearl St. market. Woongtae said Tran has recently been ill and was unable to appear at Tuesday’s meeting.