LYNN — Lynn’s 125-year-old armory is set for a new future.
In August, ownership of the historic building was transferred from the state to Neighborhood Development Associates Inc. (NDA), which is part of the nonprofit Lynn Housing Authority & Neighborhood Development (LHAND). Three months later, planning is underway to transform the 38 South Common St. location into 35 apartments for veterans.
The sale was authorized with a ceremonial bill signing by Gov. Charlie Baker in August as part of his “Open for Business” initiative that launched in 2015, according to an LHAND press release. The initiative began after Baker recognized that the commonwealth is the largest landowner in Massachusetts and many of their assets were sitting idle, according to the press release.
“It’s been sitting there vacant for a long time,” said Charles J. Gaeta, LHAND executive director. “The building is over 120 years old, so it will be fun transforming it, but it will be extremely challenging.”
The building, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, went up for an onsite auction in November 2016 and was assessed at $1.7 million. Then-Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy decided the city was not in a position to buy it at that time.
Signing the transfer legislation may have been as easy as a stroke of a pen, but the deal has been years in the making with the assistance of many people and agencies, according to LHAND. Last week, the nonprofit reconvened a steering committee to continue the momentum of restoring the old building.
“The committee started over a year ago through Gov. Baker’s program, which is a surplus property program done throughout Massachusetts to sell them back to local municipalities, or to someone in the community, for reuse to bring these structures back,” said Gaeta. “We met with the committee last week and the building is in the process of being signed over to NDA.”
Gaeta said Jeff Weeden, project manager, discussed the challenges ahead at last week’s meeting, the biggest being the expensive rehabilitation. The Baker administration has worked very closely with the committee to help find funding for the project, said Gaeta.
Senator Brendan Crighton, state Rep. Dan Cahill, Mayor Thomas M. McGee, Ward 5 Councilor Dianna Chakoutis, and Director of Veterans Services Mike Sweeney are all committed to getting this transformation up and running, said Gaeta. The goal is to keep up with Lynn’s mission of ending homelessness among those who served in the armed forces.
Once Baker signs the deal, the committee will move forward with the project sometime in December, said Gaeta. Given the Armory has a lot of unused space, the transformation will not only include housing for veterans, but areas for other veteran related services as well.
“I look forward to working on it with everyone because it’s great to reuse the structure like that,” said Gaeta. “The armory is so grand and beautiful.”