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11 Church Street: A real estate history

Back in 2011 I listed a cool old 3-family home at 11 Church Street, in the block next to Market Basket. The house had been in the same family for something like 40 years, and I got to know many of the family members who had grown up there — one family living in one unit, while aunts, uncles, cousins lived in another, a grandmother in another. It was a true old Somerville multi-family, family home and it was hard for them to let it go, but they’d had it rented out for years, and the upkeep simply became too much of a burden.

The property was offered for a good price and it was solid — high ceilings, large windows, level floors, a dry basement, “good bones” as we say. Plus it was a legal 3-family being delivered vacant — a developer’s dream!

Alas, 2011 was a different market, and Union Square, though on the verge of being hip, was not quite there yet. And so one after one, investors and developers came in, saw the place, and decided against it — no one will ever want to buy a condo next to Market Basket, they told me. I couldn’t believe that no one could see this incredible opportunity — even after we did a pretty hefty price reduction a few weeks in.

I ran the numbers and knew that this could be a profitable condo conversion — we just needed a buyer with vision. So I reached out to a great Cambridge developer I knew from my neighborhood, who I thought might be just the guy. Although he owned some investment properties in Somerville, but had never done a condo conversion there, so there would definitely be a learning curve for him to figure out the CIty’s condo conversion policies and wade through a bunch of new bureaucracy. But happily, when he saw the house, he was able to see what it could become, and so, after 45 days on the market (!!), we finally had a buyer for this great old home.

Not only was I glad to finally have a buyer for the house, but I was also very happy it was this particular buyer, who I knew would take the proper care with the renovations and do justice to this house I’d come to love. It also made things easier for the sellers to know that their long-time home was going to be in good hands.

It took a while for the construction to begin, as the developer was in the middle of another project at the time, but once it did, it was great to get to watch the process. It was somewhat bittersweet to see the old and worn-out elements of the building stripped away, leaving just the original studs and foundation. But with the footprint and proportions retained, somehow, the entirely new house that was being built still had the “soul” of the original. Here’s a look at the work-in-progress:

11 Church Street, Somerville

The finished condos were gorgeous — light and airy, with beautiful finishes and all the modern amenities people in this market seek — new systems, an open layout, central air, in-unit laundry, etc. When we brought thems on the market in 2013, Union Square was getting hot, the condos showed beautifully, and all three sold within a week over their asking prices. Happy developer. Happy me. Happy new owners.

And now here we are, three years, later, and I’m happy to be listing the first resale in the building — Unit 1:

11 Church Street, Unit 1, Somerville


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