PEABODY — Tenants at the Tannery I Apartments on Crowninshield Street can sleep a little easier tonight.
Facing the end of a 40-year agreement to keep rents low, Winn Cos., of Boston bought the 284-unit apartment complex for $36 million in a deal that closed last week.
By purchasing the seven-story masonry building with its mix of studio, one- and two-bedroom units, Winn extends the modest rents for another 40 years.
“The sale of the Tannery to Winn will enable many low-income Peabody residents to remain in their homes and continue to be part of our community,” said Mayor Edward Bettencourt Jr. in a statement. “It will also secure a significant portion of Peabody’s affordable housing stock for decades to come.”
The drama began last year when the building’s owner, Crowninshield Management Corp., a family-owned real estate company managed by Deborah Collier-Comins, reached the end of its long term agreement with MassHousing, an independent agency created to provide financing for affordable housing. Under the terms of the deal signed in the 1970s, the landlord was required to keep rents affordable for income-eligible tenants in the 104-year-old former A.C. Lawrence Tannery.
Monthly rents for the affordable units in the historic apartment community range from $0 to $618 for a studio apartment and $0 to $720 for a one-bedroom, according to tenants. Similar market rate units in Peabody are fetching $1,900 to $2,200, according to apartments.com.
Last year, Crowninshield Management received an offer to purchase the property from TrueNorth Capital Partners LLC. Unencumbered by low-income use restrictions, the Stamford, Conn., buyer was thought to be considering a plan to convert the Tannery into primarily market rate units, doubling, tripling and in some cases quadrupling rents.
But under state law, the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) or its designee has a right of first refusal to purchase publicly-assisted housing. DHCD selected Winn, one of the nation’s largest affordable housing developers.
As the DHCD’s designee, and partnering with the city, Winn gathered the resources to purchase the Tannery, rehabilitate the apartments and extend the affordability restrictions.
“This is perhaps one of the greatest examples of government collaboration on all levels for the protection of our residents and the betterment of our community,” said state Rep. Thomas Walsh (D-Peabody) in a statement.
City Councilor-at-Large Anne Manning-Martin, who fielded many questions from tenants about the possibility of escalating rents, praised Winn who, she said, have proven to be a conscientious partner with the city to provide safe, affordable housing for our residents, many of whom are disabled or seniors on fixed incomes.
In addition to the sale of the property, the city was given a modern and licensed dam that sits on the Tannery property. Officials said the dam will help retain water that might otherwise flow into Peabody Square and further strengthens the city’s overall flood mitigation efforts.
Winn could not be reached for comment.