Plans for a major redevelopment of the former EduComp building in Vineyard Haven are in front of the Martha’s Vineyard Commission for review.
The proposal is to create a mixed-use development by gutting and renovating the existing 7,686-square-foot structure, leaving the existing exterior, and constructing a 16,800-square-foot addition in the back of the building. The renovated portion will consist of three floors, and the addition will have four floors. There would be 17 parking spots and four garage spaces.
The addition would include up to seven retail or office condo units, 15 bike storage spaces, garage space in the rear, and housing on the upper floors.
The applicant is Xerxes Aghassipour, a real estate developer who goes by Xerxes Agassi, has secured a purchase and sale agreement to buy the building. The sale amount was not disclosed.
The residential upper floors would include 15 one- and two- bedroom residential condo units running in size from 640 to 1,629 square feet, for a total of 22 bedrooms.
Two of the units would be affordable, and restricted to 80 percent of the area median income (AMI). Three workforce housing units are also proposed, and are expected to be used by the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, according to Agassi.
In a letter to the commission, hospital CFO Edward Olivier said the hospital has other leases with Agassi’s company. “The hospital, along with many other employers on the Island, has been severely affected by the shortage of affordable rental properties. The completion of the 4 State Road project will be a clear help in solving the challenge of providing suitable housing for Island workers,” Olivier wrote.
The roof of the building would become a garden terrace with amenities such as a private jacuzzi and spa. A portion of the roof would be reserved as a private deck for one of the units.
Agassi said he was drawn to the beauty of the building.
“I feel it’s a really iconic building, it’s a beautiful building,” he said. “We‘re looking to restore all of the brickwork, restore the metal roof, and expand it in the same character and theme.”
The brick building was constructed by the Sawyer Construction Co. around 1929 as a headquarters for the New England Telephone Co. When the Island converted to dial phones in the early 1960s, the team of operators was phased out. In the 1970s and 1980s, the building was home to the Island Youth Center of Martha’s Vineyard Community Services. EduComp then moved into the building in the 1980s, and closed up shop last year. The town of Tisbury briefly considered using the building as classroom space for the Tisbury School and a future town hall. Currently it houses offices for an architect, a writer, interior designer, and tutoring services.
The 4 State Road property is owned by the family of the late Dorothy and Pat Gregory, who founded EduComp.
Agassi has purchased several properties under various LLCs on the Vineyard between 2017 and 2021, including five in Oak Bluffs, two in Tisbury, and one in Edgartown. Additionally, he bought a home in Vineyard Haven in 2013. Agassi also owns property on Nantucket.
Two of his companies, KXA Capital LLC and Delano & Co. LLC, both have listed addresses at the Vineyard Haven Post Office, according to public records.
Delano & Co. is described as a “full-service property management company located on Martha’s Vineyard. We have the knowledge and local expertise to service your needs across the island. We professionally manage all aspects of maintenance and repairs, and pride ourselves on offering hands-on and comprehensive services to help landlords maintain their properties with minimum stress. We employ a team of trusted contractors to resolve a range of maintenance issues including: plumbing, electrical, boiler and HVAC, roofing, painting, landscaping, and much more.”
The property is part of a sensitive archaeological resource area called the “Vincent Site.” Agassi is working with the Public Archeological Laboratory (PAL) in Rhode Island to conduct an intensive archeological survey, which was requested by the Massachusetts Historical Commission. The neighboring 10 State Road property had an archaeological survey done in 2010.
The project has conditional approval from the town wastewater department. Agassi applied to connect to town sewer for a total of 2,578 gallons per day, 652 of which was paid as a betterment to the town. The conditional approval depends on final approval from the MVC.
Joseph Grillo, an abutter to the project, said he is in negotiations with Agassi about the traffic in and out of the proposed building.
Erik Hammarlund, another abutter to the project, said this was an extraordinarily large building.
“It’s both inappropriate for the site generally, sets a poor precedent for the town of Vineyard Haven and future development,” he said. “It looks like something that would reasonably belong next to a large mill near a factory, but not so much quite next to Veterans Memorial Park.”
The public hearing was continued to Nov. 4.
“There’s a lot of stuff in flux here, and we need a definitive plan before we can decide on an application,” commissioner Douglas Sederholm said.