EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

July 24, 2013

Parking problems: A nearly broke city and a struggling developer team up to rehab an aging garage


In the court papers filed after Lantigua threatened to cancel the deal last year, Jackson Street Housing Associates said it “has never had a fiscal year of operations when it did not operate at a negative cash flow” and expressed concern about the future of Museum Square. The company said the rent caps it agreed to in exchange for the government grants that subsidized the construction of the 11-story apartment building left it unable to pay all of its bills in 2009 and 2010, including some of the fees it owed to the Boston Land Co., which manages the building.

“This raises doubt as to whether the partnership will be able to continue as a going concern,” the company said in financial statements it cited in its complaint against the city.

Superior Court Judge Thomas Murtagh temporarily blocked Lantigua from canceling the free parking passes on Feb. 14, 2012, which is where the issue has rested.

Yesterday, Bluestein dismissed the concern for Museum Square’s future as only “an accountant’s conclusion.” He said Jackson Street Housing Associates has been willing to operate the building through 25 years of uninterrupted losses because supporting affordable housing in distressed cities “is the right thing to do.” He said the company has no other assets.

Developers of affordable housing projects sometimes build them for the tax write-offs they provide. The number of Museum Square’s 176 apartments whose rents are capped at affordable rates could not be learned yesterday.

The city’s attention refocused on the parking garage, also named Museum Square, earlier this summer, when an attendant who also is a political lieutenant in Lantigua’s campaign organization was charged with skimming thousands of dollars from collections at the garage.

Robert Nunes, the city’s state-appointed fiscal overseer, responded by reviewing all of the city’s parking contracts with private agencies.

Nunes did not express an opinion on the wisdom of the deal with Museum Square, but in a July 12 letter to Nunes that was characteristically blunt, Lantigua said the deal was “slipshod” and “grossly negligent.”

Sullivan could not be reached yesterday.

The parking passes now sell for $148.75 a month. At that rate, the city would collect $303,450 if Museum Square tenants paid full freight.

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