The list of seven properties going on the block at the City Auction last Thursday appeared to most people as nothing more than a short list of addresses.
Addresses for homes that had been neglected and taken through the state-defined tax title foreclosure process.
Six of the seven properties that went up for sale last Thursday in the City Hall Council Chambers were once in the hands of Alba Corona-Perez and Gabriel Rivera – property owners in Chelsea and East Boston who had been the subject of numerous investigative reporting pieces in the Boston Globe and Boston Herald, and who also have been tabbed by City, Police and Fire officials as some of the worst landlords in the area. They have been characterized as property owners who use their money and Rivera’s law license to terrorize anyone or any municipality that gets in their way.
Over the last 20 years, officials chronicled rampant drug dealing, squalid conditions and outright defiance against those wishing to fix the problems.
The courts have agreed with that characterization in part by granting the City title of the six properties, and even one other property on Shurtleff Street just three weeks ago in Chelsea District Court that wasn’t sold at Thursday’s auction.
Some $465,000 in unpaid taxes and fees were due on the six properties, and last Thursday was a chance to turn over a new leaf.
With Attorneys Gerry D’Ambrosio and Peter Brown (who fought for the City over the last four years) overseeing the Auction with City Treasurer Bob Boulrice, the properties appeared to generate considerable money for the City and, more importantly, get them in the hands of responsible owners.
“That’s really what we wanted to do here more than anything, more than maximizing revenue, is get these in the hands of good, local owners who will fix them up and bring them in line with our vision here in Chelsea,” said Boulrice. “It appears so far that we have done that.”
City Manager Jay Ash said Chelsea doesn’t like to take properties, but this was a unique case and one in which it appears a bad situation has morphed into something good.
“We expect the properties to be placed into productive use, and will now work with the new owners to see that happen,” said Ash. “In some of the cases, we had properties that had been neglected by their previous owners and we’re especially happy to see that those properties will receive the investment they need to be a positive boost to their neighbors instead of the drags they have been.
We don’t like taking property here, however, when we do, we generally don’t want to hold on to the property for too long because we’re not set up to be property managers,” he continued. “Our main focus in this auction was to maximize the values of the properties and conduct a process with integrity. I’m happy to report that both goals were met.”
In all, the City grossed $1,669,425 on all seven properties (one property was not owned by Rivera and Corona-Perez and is a vacant lot on Washington Avenue) through a lively auction by the Zekos Group.
The Council Chambers were packed – with standing room only – as Auctioneer Paul Zekos began his fast-talking, witty numbers game – one part official property sale and one part stand up comedy act. Numerous major real estate players in Chelsea were there, along with a few outside investors and a good number of individuals looking to get a potentially good deal on a new home for their family.
The sale went briskly and the bidders were not bashful. Zekos kept the mood light during what was a pretty intense process, one time tapping a drowsy man in the front row with a file folder and saying to the man next to him, “What, he’s sleeping here in the front row? Keep this guy awake will ya.”
And then he moved on again to the fast and furious barrage of numbers and prices.
Successful bidders were expected to pay $10,000 deposit on the property last Thursday before leaving the auction, and they have 30 days to deliver the remaining balance. After that, they can pass papers and be named the official owner. Until then, their names are not yet public record.
The properties and sale prices are listed below:
• 407-409 Broadway and 198 Division St. (Office building/land parcel) – $445,000
• 55 Library St. (three family) – $220,000
• 158-160 Shawmut St. (three family) – $225,000
• 28 Carmel St. (three family) – $195,000
• 34 Cottage St. (three family) – $190,000
• 33 Cary Ave. #1 (condo unit) – $67,500
• 369-371 Washington Ave. (land parcel) – $185,000