The redevelopment of our iconic Post Office began in earnest this past January.
There were 21 bidders at the outset and the job was awarded in June of 2015 to “136 Haven Street”, a Massachusetts Limited Liability Corporation (LLC). The principals of ”136 Haven Street’” are Paul DiBiase and Tom Connery.
Paul is the Principal of DiBiase Homes, a Lynnfield developer with over 40 years of experience in building quality homes and multi-family projects throughout Massachusetts and Florida. Tom is a 25-year Reading resident with 20 years of real estate expertise in construction, development, and property management. He is the Principal of Matrix Development, a private, commercial real estate company he founded in 2012. Prior to that, Tom worked as a developer for Roseland Property Company, a private multi-family and mixed-use firm and AvalonBay Communities.
The original Reading Post Office had many locations in the 1800’s including the Lyceum building and in the Masonic Block. It moved to its current location at the intersection of Haven and Sanborn Streets, opening its new building of Georgian revival design in 1917. In 1969, an extension was added to its right side that preserved the original look while increasing its postal capabilities of receipt, sorting and distribution of mail, sometimes 24 hours a day. Twelve years prior to that (1957), the Gilman Kingman house and another were relocated to accommodate the rear parking lot.
The new development will maintain the outside appearance with only a redesign of the windows on the right-side extension, allowing for more sunlight making the inside more functional. The front façade is subject to a protective covenant put in-place by the USPS. Reading-based O’Sullivan Architects was retained for the new architectural design.
The end result of the redevelopment will be a street level café with a roof patio for warm weather dining on the left side, and commercial space available in both the original building and the right-side extension. The semi-circular stairs, center entrance palladium windows and sidewalk stone wall will be retained. The commercial space is defined as office, retail, restaurant, institutional and consumer services.
The new construction will also include 50 condominiums in 5 stories directly behind the existing building. They will be priced at the market rate with 10 set aside as affordable units. Resident parking will be all underground and accessed from Haven Street. Incidentally, Postmark will be the first condominium housing in our downtown area. All the rest of the new downtown housing are apartments including the new Metropolitan and those on lower Haven Street. Individual units at Postmark will consist of 1 to 2+ bedrooms with penthouse units available.
Paul DiBiase and Tom Connery believe that “the proposed redevelopment of the Reading Post Office Property will take a landmark structure which has long been part of the fabric of Reading’s downtown and create a vibrant mixed-use building with space for commercial tenants to engage along Haven Street while providing 50 new condominium homes”.
It sounds so simple but the steps to secure approval of the project were extensive. Their 60+ years of combined building and commercial real estate experience encouraged them to bid on the unpriced property in 2014, securing an agreement with the Federal government in June of 2015, and putting down the deposit without getting their first permit. Being a building on the National Register of Historic Buildings, their proposal had to satisfy both the Massachusetts and Reading’s Historical Commissions in preserving the building’s exterior architectural character and avoid the loss or neglect of the building.
Project approval was also contingent on incorporating “Smart Growth Criteria” which includes mixed uses, concentrated development, expand housing opportunities, public transportation choices, increase job and business opportunities, adhere to Reading’s Master Plan for affordable housing, and conform with the purposes of Reading’s downtown Smart Growth District zoning criteria.
As previously mentioned, 20% or 10 of the 50 units must be affordable housing. This means that the sale price shall be established so that the monthly housing payment, including mortgage principle and interest, private mortgage insurance, property taxes, condominium fees, insurance and parking fees shall not exceed 30% of the maximum monthly income permissible for an eligible household, assuming a family size equal to the number of bedrooms in the unit plus one.
Entitlement hearings for permits and approvals began in September, 2017 and were finalized with construction documents during 2018. Ground breaking began on January 9th, 2019. The project will be completed in 18 months with occupancy slated for the summer of 2020. The agency handling the sale of commercial and residential space is Compass Realty of Boston.
Tom and his wife Liz have been Reading residents for over 25 years and have 4 sons who’ve graduated from Reading Memorial High School and all are embarked in successful careers of their own. Tom is a graduate of Michigan State University and as earlier mentioned, the Principal in Matrix Property Group. As a 25-year resident of the Town of Reading, Tom is well known having served as an elected Town Meeting Member, Town Forest Committee Member, Director of the Reading Open Land Trust, and a six-year President of the Friends of Reading Football booster organization that has donated over $75,000 to RMHS and the high school football team. Liz is an educator in the Reading school system teaching at Birch Meadow Elementary School.
Paul DiBiase and Tom Connery truly believe that Postmark represents an iconic redevelopment of the former Post Office building that represents a vibrant, new residential and commercial project that will be the most successful new development in the town. They feel it will redefine the downtown Reading landscape by providing the sophisticated buyer with a luxurious home within an historical building in a vibrant location. From their experience and thorough planning along with the desire of many to live in the town, they’re off to a great start.
More information is available at: “ThePostmarkReading.com”.