The town has long grappled with what to do about the nearly 2.3-acre property at 837 Humphrey St., which sits in a residential neighborhood, after the town bought it for $3.25 million in 2006. Over the years, the town batted around proposals for condominiums and an assisted-living facility. The building was even used as a temporary town hall during renovations to Swampscott Town Hall on Monument Avenue several years ago.
In 2007, a Temple Israel reuse committee looked at whether the 1950s former synagogue building could be used as a municipal building, a cultural center or torn down and redeveloped. The committee recommended the basement be reused as a police station and the upper floor a community cultural arts center.
These plans never came to pass, and the town has since built a new police station on Humphrey Street. The parcel used to have a much larger parking lot with access to Atlantic Avenue, but Congregation Shirat Hayam sold this portion of the lot to a neighbor for $450,000, according to the deed.
Charing Cross Realty, in the form of Atlantic Crossing LLC of Salem, later bought the Temple Israel property for $1.85 million. The developer is Philip Singleton, a Lynnfield resident and Salem native whose projects on the North Shore include the Tannery in Peabody, the Salem Police Station and the Bowditch and Pickering schools in Salem.
The land had been rezoned for 40 condominiums, said Singleton, who approached selectmen Chairman Sullivan about whether the town would be flexible when it submitted a bid. A plan for 19 homes ran into resistance at Town Meeting, so the number of homes was reduced to 14.
On the company’s second try, Town Meeting in October 2012 approved rezoning the property to make way for the new homes.
”The second time, it was unanimous in favor,” he said. “The first time, we lost by a majority vote, but we had more units at that point.”