As Everett waits to find out if a resort casino will be located in the city, a $90 million project to convert the former Charleston Chew candy factory into 328 luxury apartments could become a sweet spot in the Greater Boston housing market, the state's top business official said Tuesday.
"It seems like this was a development just waiting to happen," said Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Gregory Bialecki. "It's probably less than 5 miles from downtown Boston, and it's accessible by all sorts of roadways and public transportation."
Developer Andy Montelli, a principal at Post Road Residential in Fairfield, Conn., predicts the complex will be a strong competitor to housing developments in Cambridge, Medford, and Somerville.
"It's going to be really hot housing," Montelli told Bialecki and other state and local officials. "It's going to be very high end."
Bialecki visited Everett on Tuesday as part of a nine-stop tour of development projects in urban communities north of Boston. Accompanied by Deputy Secretary Arthur Jemison, Bialecki already has visited the Boston neighborhoods of Charlestown and East Boston, along with Chelsea, Malden, Revere, and Winthrop.
They'll visit Somerville on Thursday and end the tour in Medford next Tuesday.
"The locations and the demographics of these communities make sense, and from our perspective, have a lot of opportunity for development growth," Bialecki said.
The secretary praised the work of local officials to encourage new growth in old urban areas.
"The municipal leaders in these places want things to happen," Bialecki said. " Massachusetts in the past had a reputation of being a tough place to get [development] done. But we've found that Everett, and other neighboring communities, don't have that attitude. They want more private investment."
In Everett, the biggest development proposal on the block is the $1.2 billion resort casino proposed by Las Vegas developer Steve Wynn. He 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 one license the state's gambling commission is expected to award for Greater Boston in April, 2014.
Bialecki said a casino should stimulate, but not dominate, a local economy. "Wherever they are in the state, a casino is not going to singlehandedly change everything," he said in an interview. "You have to think of it as a catalyst for other economic opportunities."
Everett Mayor Carlo DeMaria Jr., 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 of the city.
In addition to the former Charleston Chew site, state officials also visited Night Shift Brewery, a craft beer maker on lower Broadway, and River's Edge, a mixed-use development shared with Malden and Medford.
The former Charleston Chew factory has stood vacant since it closed in 1985, after production moved to a Nabisco facility in Cambridge. A Boston developer proposed to turn it into the Charleston Lofts, 200 condominiums and artists/lofts, but the project stalled.
Now the Everett property will be named The Batch Yard - a nod to its legacy of chocolate making. The four-story factory, made of concrete, will get three additional floors. A total of 160 apartments will be located in the seven-story building, Montelli said.
"It will have a great roof deck," Montelli told Bialecki. "It will have awesome views of downtown" Boston.
The privately-financed development will include two other buildings that together will have 168 apartments. A parking garage will also be built. Parking spaces will be located under each of the three buildings, for a total of 500 spaces, Montelli said.
The first units are due to open in the spring of 2014. Studio, one, and two bedroom apartments will make up the bulk of the units, with about a dozen three-bedroom apartments, Montelli said.
The development's proximity to Boston and Cambridge, along with MBTA bus stops on Broadway, made the site a desirable investment, Montelli said.
"I know it's going to be successful, because we're next door to huge job centers," he said. "And we have a tremendous bus system right outside our front door."