Construction resumes at former No. 1 school site


Construction work has started again on the condominium building at the former site of the Number One School on Central Avenue in Lawrence, adjacent to the Peninsula Public Library, almost three years after the foundation was laid.

Within the past month, the steel frame for the 138-unit building has taken shape on the nearly four-acre parcel that the school district sold to Lawrence-based developer David Neuberg for $29.1 million in July 2007.

The original proposal called for 144 luxury condominiums, but the project — the Regency Residence at Lawrence — was revised to include some larger three-bedroom, three-bathroom apartments, according to Mark Weissman, a principal with the Lawrence-based Weissman Realty Group, the project’s marketing agent, who responded to an email sent to Neuberg.

“It will be the nicest building in the Five Towns,” said Weissman, noting that the building will be four stories — 60 feet — high. The height variance that the project received from the village before the sale was completed remains in effect, he said. Lawrence’s normal maximum is three stories or 40 feet.

Construction began on the project in 2008, but Neuberg’s financing fell apart when Lehman Brothers, one of his majority lenders, declared bankruptcy that September. Weissman said that better financing and a stronger economy should make the project viable, and it is expected to be completed in approximately 17 months. A model condo should be ready by October.

“There have been many inquiries, and when it was initially proposed, a number of people were ready to put down money,” Weissman said. “There are indications that the economy has improved and will continue to improve. We anticipate the project going well in the next 18 months and selling out very quickly. It is a unique project in the Five Towns.”

The one-, two- and three-bedroom units will range from 800 to 2,200 square feet and feature high ceilings and balconies. The building will have a doorman, valet parking and concierge service, as well as an underground garage with 182 parking stalls and 33 spaces outside the garage.

Residents will have use of a community room and a recreational facility with a fitness center and a glass-enclosed indoor/outdoor swimming pool. During the summer the glass will be removed, Weissman said.

Former Lawrence Mayor Jack Levenbrown, who was in office when the school was sold to Neuberg, has said that there is a need for upscale apartments in the village and that there are people in the area who would like to live in these condominiums. “Absolutely, we have something like 600 apartments in the village, and it would add to it,” Levenbrown said. “At least as originally planned, it was a high-end building with a lot of amenities that a lot of people would want to move into. I think it is a very important project.”

Inwood-based architect John Capobianco designed the building, which he described as a “traditional” look with a colonial front and a French mansard-style roof with two different-size slopes. In a touch of nostalgia, the building’s front will also have a clock like the original Number One School, he said.

“The apartments are designed to be much larger than Manhattan apartments, and are designed for kosher kitchens and are ADA-adaptable,” said Capobianco, an Atlantic Beach resident, referring to the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The project is moving along quickly, Weissman said. But ironworkers from Local 361, angered by the use of nonunion labor, have picketed the site since work began, accompanied by a large inflatable pig. “We’re here until the job’s done, if nothing changes,” said Guy Bove, who spoke for the


Bove said that ironworkers are normally paid about $40 per hour plus benefits. He assumed the nonunion workers are earning less, but he could not say how much less.

Weissman confirmed the involvement of nonunion laborers. “Using nonunion workers is not illegal, and makes these projects more financially feasible,” he said, noting that the subcontractors are local businesses and the workers are “highly skilled and capable.”