It’s been a rocky road for a proposed retail marijuana dispensary at 307 Broadway, but Concrete Garden is now a step closer to opening at the prime downtown location.
Over the past year, the main point of contention about the proposed dispensary has been the condition of and violations at the 307 Broadway building owned by Peach Enterprises.
City officials have expressed concerns about a number of violations and continuing illegal business uses at the location.
For their part, Concrete Garden and its principals, Vladimir Samuel and Alex Yoyo, have stated that they will take on the cost of the upgrades to the building in order to get their business off the ground.
Last week, the Zoning Board of Appeals voted to approve the special permit for the business, despite reservations from outgoing City Manager Thomas Ambrosino. The project will next be before the Planning Board on Jan. 24 for major site plan review.
“I am a lame duck here, so you can take what I say with a grain of salt, but my administration’s position on this proposal has not changed,” said Ambrosino. “We are opposed, completely opposed to the board granting this permit. It has nothing to do with the use being proposed; I have never opposed a marijuana retail facility.
“As far as I am concerned, the board can approve everyone that comes before it and let the market decide who survives and who doesn’t.”
Ambrosino said the city’s opposition was based on the specific location, which is the site of numerous violations that have never been properly addressed by the owner.
“The city has tried to get cooperation and has tried to remedy these problems, but has not gotten the support,” said Ambrosino. “We have not made the progress that was promised to this board in the past month. That was the reason two members of the Planning Board voted against recommending this, and the reason I continue to advocate that this permit not be issued.”
But Valerio Romano, the attorney representing Concrete Garden, said the best path forward for the city to see improvements to the property is by issued the permits that will allow the dispensary owners to complete the approximately $50,000 to $75,000 worth of work needed to bring the building up to code.
“We’re not going to sink a ton of money into the building until we know we’re going to be able to site there, and this is sort of the first step in being able to site there,” said Romano. “I get it, if we want to get the building fixed up and figure out the violations, this is the avenue to do it. Whatever water is under the bridge between the city and the property owner is not the fault of Concrete Garden, and now we can fix these issues.”
Romano noted that one of the prior alleged illegal uses in the building, a tax office on the second floor, has moved out. The second use, a bakery that operates up to the basement, would be able to comply with zoning once the upgrades to the building are completed, he added.
Samuel said the plan is to have the construction necessary to bring the building up to code completed by April.
“Somehow, you expect a social equity applicant to come in and fix up the building and kick out two tenants in the building before they can even come before the board and expect a permit,” Romano said. “It just isn’t reasonable.”
Several ZBA members said they were concerned that Concrete Garden was taking on the responsibilities that should be completed by the building owner.
Romano said he also cautioned Samuel about taking on the responsibilities, but that ultimately, Concrete Garden wanted to move the process along and be able to open for business in a high visibility, downtown location.
“With the market forces for cannabis in Massachusetts, to spend an extra $50,000 to open a great location like the Broadway location, the costs are not such so that they are prohibitive,” said Romano.
ZBA acting Chair Arthur Arsenault said he supported the petitioner with the condition that the renovations are complete before Concrete Garden occupies the building. The ZBA voted 4-0 to approve the special permit.
“The occupancy permit cannot be issued until the problems are remedied,” said Arsenault.