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Charlestown's Ropewalk Factory Conversion: It's Knot Going to Be Easy

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Boston firm going for it anyway with 97-unit apartment plan

We've known for a long while that Boston-based Frontier Enterprises wants to convert the 160,000-square-foot former Ropewalk factory in the Charlestown Navy Yard into apartments. Many have tried before as the building has been vacant since 1971, but the industrial site presents a whole host of seemingly unique challenges.

Here's the Globe's Jon Chesto: "[I]t’s more than a quarter-mile long but only 45 feet wide for most of its length. Then add the stiff historic requirements imposed by the National Park Service and the Massachusetts Historical Commission for the roughly 180-year-old granite building. Steel tracks that run down the length of the mill, for example, must be incorporated into the design."

Frontier's going for it anyway. Its plans include 97 apartments. They would be a mix of 1-, 2-, and 3-BRs, with rents from $2,500 to $3,500 a month. To adapt to the existing building's design, the apartments would likely be built townhouse-style, one after the other and opening onto a long (obviously) hallway. Twenty apartments will be designated affordable, largely to get $31 million in state financing.

The conversion would not include on-site parking, a rarity in Boston development. Instead, tenants with cars would be required to prove they have designated parking elsewhere to assuage local concern over yet more cars competing for spaces.

And, lest one think that the trendy apartments would wash away the ropey background of the aged building, Frontier plans to include a rope-making museum at one end of the converted complex. Also, hemp-pulling machines once used at the factory would be put on display.

Frontier hopes to wrap the necessary O.K.'s next month and start construction before Labor Day. Stay tuned.

Charlestown Navy Yard

1st Avenue, Charlestown, MA 02129 617 242 3821