From today’s Boston Herald:

With every tractor-trailer and cement mixer that rumbles by, residents of the Reserve Channel Condominiums feel their new homes begin to shake.

This graceless 26-unit tenement stands virtually naked amid the freight terminals and loading docks that form what’s left of Southie’s industrial Lower End.

If not for the crudely spray-painted across a dingy green tarp fastened to an even dingier chain-link fence, mail would never find this place.

Around Southie, 404 W. First Street has come to be known as Pappas Plywood Palace,” a nod to that local family of condo titans and real estate sharks:James Pappas and his sons, Tim, Jay and Andrew, who threw up the building to satisfy their city affordable housing obligation”.

Truth is, 404 W. First Street is living proof that condo hustling – much like apartheid – can be segregated between the haves and have-nots. The haves pay ridiculous prices for the “luxury” of granite counters, hardwood floors, exposed brick and stainless steel Sub-Zeros.

Meanwhile, those who exist in the have-not world of so-called affordable housing get white appliances, plastic counters and stain-resistant carpeting.

Theoretically, the folks who now reside at the Pappas Plywood Palace should have been living a quarter-mile up the road, inside the Pappas Properties’ $53 million mecca of luxury lofts that now fill the restored Court Square Press Building at the Broadway T stop.

But instead of devoting a mandatory 13 percent of the 130 lofts inside Court Square for those in the $230,000 price range (as opposed to the $450,000 to $1 million crowd), Pappas & sons convinced the BRA and local pols to let them build their affordable units off-site – on a commercial lot in the middle of a truck route.

By excluding the affordable “have-nots”, Pappas got the maximum price for each and every one of his Court Square lofts.

With that building down there (at 404 W. First),” said Peter Woodford, executive director of the South Boston Neighborhood Development Corp.,(Pappas) has done more damage to the namesake of affordable housing.

More people walked away from those units as soon as they saw the quality of the workmanship. Compare that building to any other affordable development in this town and the difference jumps out at you.”

Back in April, the Reserve Channel condo dwellers set out a list of their grievances and complaints to Pappas management. Curiously, their three-page letter got its first and only response on Wednesday – the same day I began making phone calls.

Granted, 404 W. First Street is meant for the peasant affordable” class, but should the roof really be leaking after a year and a half? Should walls be cracking? Should the landscape be a stunning blend of weeds and gravel? For $240,000 or so, plus condo fees and taxes, don’t people who work as nurses, firefighters and teachers have a right to expect some lighting around the property? Maybe a halfway decent sign that announces what this building in the middle of nowhere is?

In his return letter, Tim Pappas appears to be concerned only with unpaid condo fees. He does, however, concede the obvious: Unlike the luxury brick fortress that is Court Square Press, Tim says 404 W. First Street is wood frame and located on a heavy truck route. Although shaking occurs, structural integrity of the building is not an issue.”

Isn’t that what they said about that tunnel down the street?

Tim Pappas made films in college. His brother Andrew started art history in Paris. You’d think that a pair of developers with such refined sensibilities would maybe stick a few shrubs around their plywood palace. If for no other reason than to promote the illusion that they care how the lives.

– By Peter Gelzinis, The Boston Herald

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Updated: January 2018

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