Big obstacles for 3882 Cannon Place’s developer

Photo By Stephen Murphy

While we have known for more than a year that VOA was no longer interested in operating supportive housing at 3882 Cannon Place, Community Board 8 now has a letter from VOA clearly stating that they have not heard from developer Ismael Fernandez for more than a year, and that they have no plans to use the building. VOA’s letter to CB 8

Neither the Community Board nor the Buildings Department is aware of an alternative plan for the building. Community Board 8 has reached out to Fernandez a number of times, but has received no response.

The building being constructed at 3882 Cannon is only legal if it is used as supportive housing. Otherwise, it is too big for the R4A zone in which it is located. Either an appropriate plan must be made for its use or, like its predecessor, it may be torn down.

The Buildings Department has confirmed by email that a Certificate of Occupancy will not be granted until Fernandez can produce a lease with a non-profit who is committed to use the building as supportive housing. The C of O would run for the same length of time as the lease.

Changes in Buildings Department Policy Underway

FIPNA has said for some time that the Buildings Department should never have given Fernandez a permit to build. The only evidence Fernandez offered the Buildings Department that his building would be used for supportive housing was a tentative letter from the Volunteers of America, stating their “intent to apply for funding” to house veterans on the site. Hardly a firm commitment to occupy the building. (Letter Fernandez submitted to the Buildings Department)

Supportive housing is generally built for the needs of particular clients, not built and offered for rent. After all, an agency which helps returning veterans get back on their feet needs a different building than an agency that provides housing for developmentally disabled adults. If a developer builds supportive housing on spec, there’s a great risk that his investment will be in vain, and that the neighborhood will be stuck with a vacant building.

Now, the Buildings Department is drafting a new policy statement, which will clarify the requirements for getting a permit to build supportive housing that is larger than the zoning would normally allow. This is a victory for our neighborhood; it should mean that no one will be given a permit for supportive housing without a viable plan in the future.

The future — and past — of 3882 Cannon Place

What will happen next? Does Fernandez have a legitimate plan for the use of his building? Stay tuned, here at www.fipna.org.

This is the second time Fernandez has built on this site. Coming soon, a background piece on 3882 Cannon Place.

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One response to “Big obstacles for 3882 Cannon Place’s developer”

  1. Jack

    Great article Margaret.
    I long suspected that the VOA plan would never come to fruition. On its face — it looked like a very good plan and would have probably fit quite well in the neighborhood. VOA is reputable non-profit and housing veterans makes a lot of sense, given the relative proximity of the VA Medical Center. This VOA plan was too good to be true — given the history of dishonesty and bad acts by Ismael Fernandez, the developer. Why would a reputable group deal with this guy? Hopefully the DoB finally has woken up and will demand more concrete plans and commitments from developers and non-profit partners when they green light these zoning exceptions. Because DoB allowed this project to go forward, we are stuck with an unoccupied building. At least Fernandez seems to be placing a guard. How long will that last?

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