$12M Berlin Project Moves Ahead

$12M Berlin Project Moves Ahead
An existing apartment building on Flower Street will be razed as part of a major renovation project for the Isaiah Fassett Apartments. Photo by Charlene Sharpe

BERLIN – The town’s board of zoning appeals approved variances that will allow an apartment renovation on Flower Street to move forward.

The board of appeals voted unanimously Feb. 5 to approve a trio of variances requested by Homes for America as it prepares to renovate the apartments at 113 Flower Street and rebuild the apartments at 115 Flower Street.

“I think the improvement they’re making is definitely needed,” board member Jay Knerr said.

In the fall, Homes for America presented town officials with concept plans for renovation of the complex known as the Isaiah Fassett Apartments and plans for the rebuilding of the adjacent apartments at 115 Flower Street. To move forward with the plans, however, the developer needed approval to reduce the required parking from 80 spaces to 57 spaces, to reduce the minimum lot area and to reduce a side setback. According to Planning Director Dave Engelhart, the apartments currently don’t conform with town code. While the variances would be needed, the layout proposed is better than what’s existing, Engelhart said.

Homes for America has extensive renovations—including new kitchens, bathrooms, flooring, HVAC and façade—for the Isaiah Fassett Apartments. The company plans to demolish the existing building next door, which currently houses 11 units, and replace it with a new 12-unit building. Diana Talios, development director for Homes for America, said the building dated back to at least the 1960s.

“It’s quite distressed,” she said.

Engelhart agreed.

“Over time we’ve had many visits there,” he said, adding that residents in the past had complained of leaks and insect problems. “We used to have quite a few headaches with enforcement there.”

Board member Woody Bunting expressed concern over the fact that if the variances were approved, the project’s density would increase.

Engineer Casey Rauch said that Homes for America was looking at the project as a whole, considering both apartments together as one site.

“Today neither property meets the existing requirements,” he said.

Talios said it would be a $12 million project overall. When asked if a market study had been done, she said that it had and that there was a strong demand for workforce housing.

Engelhart said town staff supported the company’s proposal and had worked with its representatives on the plans during the past two years.

Joe Moore, chairman of the board, said the project would substantially benefit the community and urged his fellow board members to consider the evidence presented.

The board voted 5-0 to approve the variances as long as the two apartment properties were formally combined to be one parcel.

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.