As Trinity looks ahead, cause of Treadmark fire still under probe

The first minutes of the June 28 fire on the top floor and roof of the Treadmark building were captured in this photo, which shows a firefighter on the roof. Polly O'Brien photo

The first minutes of the June 28 fire on the top floor and roof of the Treadmark building were captured in this photo, which shows a firefighter on the roof. Polly O'Brien photo

The investigation into the cause of a six-alarm fire that destroyed parts of a new mixed-use housing complex on Dorchester Avenue last month remains incomplete this week. Meanwhile, officials from Trinity Financial, Inc., which built and owns the structure, offered new details this week about their intention to rebuild on the site, which remains in the temporary custody of city inspectors.

The Treadmark building was just days away from completion when its upper floor and roof were consumed by a stubborn fire two weeks ago that appeared to start in the ceiling of the six-floor structure around 2 p.m. on June 28, one day before the Boston Fire Department was scheduled to do a final sprinkler system check.

The fire burned through the night as fire crews poured water and foam from ladder trucks sited at a relatively safe distance as large segments of the roof collapsed into the sixth floor along with air conditioning units.

The blaze— and uncertainty about its long-term impact on the block— marked a significant setback for the Treadmark, named with a nod to its history as the Ashmont Tire site. The now-empty building sits across from the Ashmont T station on a prominent block near its sibling, The Carruth building.

“We at Trinity Financial would like to express our sincere thanks for the outpouring of support from our friends, neighbors and colleagues in Dorchester,” the Trinity team said this week in a statement (and in a full-page ad in the Reporter). “Although we are brokenhearted by the fire incident of June 28th (as are many of you) we continue to be deeply grateful that no one was hurt throughout the ordeal,” the statement said, adding, “We hope to begin the process of fully assessing the damage shortly and shall endeavor to keep you informed after we have finalized a reconstruction plan.”

Trinity scheduled a meeting on Wednesday evening to update community members on the status of the project.

The city’s Inspectional Services Department (ISD) has custody of the building until a structural assessment can be completed. Given the extent of the damage to the roof and top floor, construction crews have had to do some preliminary make-safe work, Trinity spokesman Mathieu Zahler told the Reporter on Tuesday.

“We’re working with them on a demo plan, a construction management plan, and a health and safety plan,” Zahler said. The company expects to demolish the sixth floor, remove heavy equipment, and, ideally, get ISD approval to regain control of the building. It could take around three weeks to get to that point, Zahler said.

The building was slated for 83 housing units, including 32 condominiums. Four of the condominiums were made available to those earning 80-100 percent of Area Median Income (AMI), with 16 up to 110 percent AMI and considered “workforce units,” and the rest market rate.

More than 1,000 applicants entered a random lottery for the income-restricted rental units. There are 51 Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) rental units, affordable up to 60 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI). Although 20 people have been approved for future residency, no leases had been signed.

Those 20 residents had completed their CORI and income checks, Zahler said, but they were not told to notify any existing landlords as there had been no set move-in dates. The building was scheduled to be occupied in mid-to-late July.

Five units are designated for homeless families. Trinity was working with the housing non-profit HomeStart to fill those units, and also to retain “an ongoing working relationship with them,” Zahler said.
Trinity will honor all housing placements and those who have already completed the lottery process will be given right of first refusal if they choose not to move forward with living in the Treadmark.

The Trinity team planned to address structural and construction concerns at Wednesday’s meeting.

According to a fact sheet released by Trinity, “The building complied with all city and state building and life safety codes and was constructed in accordance with national building standards and usual and customary construction means and methods. We will review our fire prevention protocols for projects in construction in the future once a cause has been determined.”

Trinity says it has never before experienced a fire at a company property, that the wood-framed “Type 3-A” construction is very common in Boston and throughout the country, and that the roof was strong enough to handle the weight of any equipment in use.

Zahler said that Trinity expects as a precaution to look for additional opportunities to bring in fire and safety officials during reconstruction. As the assessment takes place, he said, a security company is on site monitoring the building around the clock “until further notice.”

Carol Owens, a Dorchester resident who is director of marketing at the city’s Department of Neighborhood Development, is one of the people who had planned to move into one of the condominiums.

“What I liked about participating in this is, not only do I like that they have a high-quality product to offer, but I like the idea of investing as a condo owner in a mixed-income building that had great commercial stuff,” she said at a neighborhood coffee hour on Monday, noting that a bike shop and anchor tenant American Provisions were planned for the ground level.

“And, you know, for myself,” she said, “I was looking forward to a beautifully appointed condo that was well built, so I feel like I’ve had the rug jerked out from underneath me; I think we all do. I’m not willing to give up on the dream of living in the Treadmark because I really was looking forward to it.”

A “Dorchester girl through and through,” Owens has lived in her Cedar Grove condo for 20 years, “So this was me sort of thinking through, ‘I’m in my fifties, what are the next 20 years of my life going to be like?’ And this is where I saw myself.”

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