I first heard of him when the old, dilapidated and condemned building (the Coco building, I think it was called) on the corner Nason and Summer Streets got torn down and turned into a simple, brick apartment building (in the early two-thousands, I think it was). I have a friend who has an apartment there and when I got to go inside, I was pleased with the thoughtfulness that went into building it. Later I learned that the owner was Jimmy MacDonald. Several years later he went on to build the apartments on the corner of Parker and Waltham Streets. Did he know something about Maynard that others didn't?
A couple of years ago, when I heard that he had bought more property on Main Street, and that he was going to build another apartment, I thought, Jim MacDonald is obviously convinced that Maynard is a place that people want to live. Now I'm even more convinced —I've learned that within the walls of the new apartment building he has built himself the place he expects to call home for the rest of his life.
During the renovation of the Fine Arts Theater, I got to meet Jimmy MacDonald's twin daughters Melissa and Meaghan, who were helping Steve Trumble (owner of the theater) with the remodeling work. These two charming, construction-worker women are now back helping their dad finish up this impressive and fascinating building on Main Street. On Saturday Melissa was kind enough to show me how it's coming along.
Let me just say that this blog post has no pictures because I promised that I wouldn't include any. Jimmy doesn't really want people to see the place until it's finished and looking its absolute best. So as much as I'd like to show you, I can't. Besides, the pictures don't really do it justice.
Some great news is that the first floor retail space is already under agreement with a tenant. A dentist will be taking up the entire space. Considering how much of a buildout the dentist is going to have, we can assume that they'll be sticking around for a while. Hooray!
At the time of my visit, tile was being grouted (by Jim and his daughters), carpet was waiting to be installed, doors put in place—all for the expected finish date of May first. I stepped over and around things, and climbed some flights of stairs to get to the residential section.
I'm not quite sure which floor I was on, but the apartment I got to tour was splendid. I'm guessing that the ceilings were about ten feet high. Windows were large. The cabinetry in the kitchen was beautiful—not what I expected in rental property. Counters were poured concrete. Anyone would be proud to live there. I asked some questions: Units will be available in both one, and two bedroom, and the higher the floor, the higher the rent. I asked about cost. Less expensive units will be $1350, while the most expensive go as high as $2300. They have no worries that they'll be filling these spaces—a few of the units already have deposits on them.
But what's really remarkable is the space that Jimmy has built for himself. He decided that he really wanted to live in a Victorian-style home, so he built one—façade and all—on one end of the inside of the building! It sounds crazy, I know, but it's completely brilliant! Try to imagine that you are standing at the far end of a hallway in an apartment. Looking down that hall you can make out, what would appear to be, the front door of a beautiful house. I stood there looking in wonder at it. Jimmy's home was designed around a y-shaped, antique Victorian staircase that he got in Wellesley. It's gorgeous. The façade of the "house" has both horizontal and diamond-shaped siding, windows look down from two levels over the front door, wood ornaments are painted in three colors—people, it's the front of a house! And the ceiling above the area in front of his front door has sky lights, so it kind of feels like it's outside. He plans on planting a little patch of grass and some bushes there! As I stood there, I pictured the outside of the building. As nice as it is, it completely belies the gem that lies within.
As I left the building (stepping over the grout work that Jimmy was doing), still in awe at what I had seen, I told him how beautiful I thought the whole building was. He said, "The first night I spent in this wonderful country was in Maynard. I left from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia when I was 17. Over 40 years later I'm back in Maynard."
Jimmy MacDonald has helped clean up some major eye sores in our beloved town. When he's done with this project, Maynard will be his home, as well as the home of many others. I expect that they will be reshaping the feel of the downtown, especially the east end of Main street—an area that has been underutilized for some time. Let's hope this marks a change in that.
Thank you Jimmy MacDonald, and welcome back to Maynard! We're so glad you're here.