By Seth Daniel
As plans for a revived Everett Square come into focus on the drawing boards of City Planners this month, the first question from virtually everyone’s mouth after seeing those plans is routinely about the Bouvier Jewelers Building.
The historic mansard-style brick building at the apex of the Square – along Norwood, School and Broadway – is a marquee building within the scope of reviving Everett Square.
Planning consultants for the City have called it an “anchor.”
However, the building is falling apart and has seen better days, and while plans for the Square were being drawn up over the last year, City officials were fighting in court to get the owners to correct what are termed as “serious” safety violations.
To date, the court battle continues, with the next date in Woburn Superior Court on April 18.
City officials said the building and the Code Violations are part of ongoing litigation and they cannot comment on specifics in the case. However, a review of public documents related to the case showed a long history of trouble with the Bouvier ownership going back to 2015, and the owners ignoring a court order by Middlesex Superior Court Judge Robert Gordon for more than a year now.
Attorney David Carr of Arlington, who is currently representing Jeffrey and Gilbert Bouvier, trustees of TRS CB Realty Trust, said he would not comment at all on the case.
At a hearing last Tuesday, the matter was continued until April 18.
Carr also declined to tell the Independent when the next court date would be. Instead, he offered to inform the owners of the request.
“I appreciate the work you do and your approach,” he said in a phone interview. “I will tell the owners you have called seeking comment.”
The City and consultants have high hopes that the Bouviers will repair and restore the old, anchor building, or sell it to someone who will do the same. The overall vision for the Square includes the renovation of private buildings, such as Bouvier, the Masonic building and others. However, until the court case can be resolved, it appears from the record that nothing will happen at that key corner.
According to City records, the situation began in July 2015, when an after-hours club was uncovered in the basement of the building by Everett Police.
The report from Inspectional Services references that Police entered the Tres Gatos Lounge on the first floor around 1:30 a.m. on July 4, 2015 and found around 50 people in the basement at what appeared to be an after-hours club. That discovery also uncovered significant renovations to the basement to create the club, all done allegedly without permits.
That also triggered a request from the Fire Department to have the building fully sprinklered in accordance with laws passed following the Rhode Island Nightclub.
In that letter, ISD Director Jim Soper stated that periodic inspections are required, and that none had been done.
That inspection, which came in August 2015, led to even more problems being uncovered by ISD.
During the inspection, they discovered that a Theological School had been located on the second floor without any proper permitting. Soper cited that it was an illegal change of use, that electric baseboard heat had been installed without permits, that bathrooms were not done with permits and that there were no smoke detectors or emergency lighting in the school.
The third floor of the structure was found to be in partial collapse due to water damage, with electrical hazards throughout and obstructed egresses.
Finally, Soper found that fire escapes and the building’s brick façade may be structurally unstable, and he ordered they get an architect/engineer to evaluate the building within 30 days.
That was on Sept. 8, 2015, and to date it still hasn’t been done.
In November 2015, the City filed a request for a preliminary injunction in Superior Court asking the court to force the owners to hire the engineer and repair the unsafe conditions, saying the owners have not complied with the order by the City.
In the suit, the building was described as a “threat to public and personal safety.”
On March 7, 2016, Judge Gordon agreed with the City, ordering the Bouviers to hire the engineer regarding the fire escapes before March 11, 2016, and to make all repairs cited in Soper’s letter within 30 days. The judge also ordered the owners to submit a permit application for repair work to the second floor of the building.
That was more than a year ago now, and no action has been taken.
The City is currently seeking a contempt of court civil complaint against the Bouviers, and that has been the subject of a number of hearings in court.
It is also expected to be the subject of the hearing on April 18 as well.