SALEM — There's little left of the old district court building downtown, as demolition wraps up this week on the site. And it's still a week shy of Halloween, which the development team says it's been very mindful of.
The final road closure for what has been a very visible demolition project at 65 Washington St. will occur Tuesday, with Church Street — a one-way allowing access to city parking and businesses behind Washington Street — closed to traffic.
Diamond Sinacori and Urban Spaces, a development team behind the joint venture 65 Washington St. LLC., is now a month into the work on Brix Condominiums, a 61-unit housing project with commercial space on the ground floor. It was first proposed in 2015 and finally broke ground in late September. It will still be some time, however, before crews start erecting steel for the new building.
"Other than negotiating around Halloween, it's full steam ahead," said Merrill Diamond, principal of Diamond Sinacori. "Right now, the major thing is not screwing up Salem's Halloween. We're going to do whatever is in the appropriate sequence, but taking into account not causing a problem for revelers."
The Brix project will bring a mix of one- to three-bedroom condos to the northern edge of downtown, along with a rooftop terrace, fitness center, library and other amenities for tenants. No tenants have been announced yet for the commercial space.
The mixed-use building replaces the old district court, which closed in 2012 with the opening of the J. Michael Ruane Judicial Center over on Federal Street.
Bidding for the property occurred in 2015, but contamination that was discovered — tied to the site's previous use as an automotive service business during the 1930s and '40s — greatly delayed the project, as plans had to be adjusted to cover what had become a ballooning cost for site remediation.
The City Council eventually approved a "Housing Development Incentive Program" for a half-dozen downtown properties in 2017, which also allowed for a tax break for that project, which helped offset contamination costs.
That incentive program was later extended to cover all of downtown, and a City Council committee met Monday night to discuss expanding the program to cover "all districts in the city."
Once the courthouse demolition is finished, crews will be "reusing the old foundation, so that'll save some time," Diamond said, "but we won't be in a position to put up steel for a little while."