Old Universalist Church conversion nears completion

... possible December date, target for opening

from Joan Alcala and Don Norris

From the reporter's notebook: The planned September opening of the new apartment complex that was, for some 100 years the Universalist Church, will probably be ready for occupation in December. Construction and friendly discourse with the Board of Aldermen caused some delay, although the project is coming along fine, according to the senior Mr. Wise, who came out of retirement to run the construction project for his otherwise busy son. 'Senior' gladly gave two "Mirror" reporters a tour in mid-October.

We found the 15 apartments in various state of completion -- most awaiting flooring and painting -- all of which indicates a finished product soon. Surprising was the variety of layouts, a couple of two-story apartments, no two apartments with the same look. There is also an area on the basement level which will be divided to provide locked storage.

Originally the plan was for 16 condominiums, but compromise with the Board of Aldermen -- concerned about parking -- reduced the building to 15. Instead of condos, the plan is for rented apartments. Parking is provided in two lots -- one across Willow Street, the other on the curve of Essex which Deering Lumber used for additional storage.

The original building -- a wood structure -- was built at 99 Essex Street, in 1850, and was a successful congregation for one century. A hundred years later, in 1950, a large brick addition was added, but membership faded about the turn of the century; the remaining members joined with Unitarian Church on West Emerson Street, opposite the Melrose Public Library. The tower, due for a new coat of paint, is now the kitchen for that top-floor apartment at the right.

Further information is available through the Wise Company's realtor, Debbie Chandler.

November 2, 2012

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