‘Boutique Hotel’ to Luxury Condos, Lowell Projects Moving Ahead
LOWELL -- Whatever happened to the Athenian Corner hotel?
Or how about the luxury condominium complex on the banks of the Concord River?
A few high-profile downtown development projects have been dragging over the last year, but officials say they’re getting close to finally coming to fruition.
Ted Panos, owner of the Athenian Corner restaurant, said they’re expected to break ground on the five-story “boutique hotel” by the end of the year.
John Haley, Watermark president and CEO, said they’re looking to put a shovel into the Hamilton Canal Innovation District this spring.
And David Daly, owner of Daly General Contracting, said they’re working through logistical issues around the East Merrimack site for a luxury condominium complex, with the hope of having a more concrete plan by the spring.
The Athenian project has been more “challenging and time-consuming” than expected, Panos said. They couldn’t receive any of the necessary financing for the $6 million, 52-room hotel until the historic tax-credit approval. The project calls for redeveloping the Putnam Building, where the restaurant is located. The building is on the historic register.
“We’re very close,” Panos said last week. “We’re coming along.”
Watermark is relocating its corporate headquarters from Cabot Street to the Hamilton Canal Innovation District.
Haley said the hold-up has been infrastructure, including curbing, paving, water, gas and sewerage.
“We needed to wait for that,” said Haley, the leader of the company that provides architectural, engineering and environmental consulting services. “It’s well underway, and should be done in time for us in the spring.”
Daly’s 12-story complex with up to 66 units, a restaurant, coffee shop, gym, pool, spa and other amenities has a longer timeframe than the other projects. Originally, The Sun reported that construction of the $25 million complex could begin as early as September 2017, but that keeps getting pushed back.
Daly said he’s working with an architect to tweak the layout of the building, so it will be “more economically friendly to construct.” He hopes they have a more sustainable plan by the spring.
“We’re just as excited now as we were when we first started,” Daly said. “It will be an unbelievable project. The best project downtown has seen in decades.”
For roughly 43 years, the Athenian Corner restaurant has stood as one of the landmark dining spots in Lowell. Now, the Panagiotopoulos family is working to redevelop the spot into a boutique hotel.
The restaurant will be slightly expanded, and the hotel will be in the area where the parking lot now sits as well as over the existing restaurant.
Panos had been hoping to have the hotel fully constructed by the end of July 2018, but that obviously didn’t work out. The new goal is to finish by the end of next year.
The Athenian owner said he had been contacted by Boston investment firms for the project, but it was important to keep the financing local, he stressed.
“Hotels in general are risky propositions for local banks,” Panos said. “They’re difficult projects to take on.”
After receiving the historic tax-credit approval, they’re waiting for Small Business Administration approval. That will trigger financing from Lowell Five, Panos said.
During construction, the restaurant will see periodic closures. They’re looking at alternative sites downtown to operate the restaurant during that time.
The company has been talking for several years about developing 50,000- to 70,000-square-foot, ground-up commercial buildings on Parcel 17 in the Hamilton Canal Innovation District.
“Things are moving along,” Haley said. “We’ve been meeting with a number of city departments in the last week.”
There’s a lot of tenant interest in the area, he said. People from the Boston area want to move outside the city and closer to UMass Lowell, he said.
Financing for the Watermark project was all connected to the infrastructure needs in the Hamilton Canal Innovation District.
“No one’s going to finance without those things there,” Haley said.
The luxury condos -- with units expected in the $400,000 to $800,000 range -- will be located at 5-7 East Merrimack St., across the street from the Lowell Memorial Auditorium.
Daly, the developer behind the project, said the building will transform what had been a vacant building into a gateway to the downtown area.
“We’re completely committed and focused to making this happen,” he said.
Daly said he hasn’t focused on local banks considering the magnitude of this project. Instead, he said he’s focused on private and joint-venture funding.
“This project will bring a substantial amount of people downtown with disposable income,” he said. “They’ll spend money at local restaurants. They’ll go shopping downtown. It’s so needed at this point downtown.”
Follow Rick Sobey on Twitter @rsobeyLSun.