ORLEANS — Tim Klink, an Eastham builder and developer, has purchased 177 Route 6A, where a Feb. 4 fire in an illegal apartment caused the death of a six-year-old boy and rendered the building uninhabitable. The structure has been vacant and boarded up since the fire.
Klink, CEO of the Coastal Companies, bought the half-acre property from lawyer Benjamin Zehnder in mid-July. The building is salvageable, Klink said, with most of the damage confined to the upstairs room where the fire started.
“I’m going to put together renovation plans and go before the town to garner the necessary approval for what we want to do,” he said. “Then we’re going to do a full rehab of the building this winter.” He hopes to have the work completed by next May.
His plans include construction of two offices on the main floor. One office will serve as a satellite location for the Coastal Companies and the other will be leased.
Upstairs, he hopes to build six or more one-bedroom apartments, with the number dependent on town regulations. “Workforce housing is in big demand, as you know,” Klink said. “I own multiple businesses, so we need apartments for staff to live in.”
Klink bought the Yardarm Restaurant in Orleans in May.
“We have a great staff there, and they’re all looking for places to live,” he said. “To continue operations with the restaurant and to be able to recruit qualified staff, we need housing.”
Klink had been looking for a building to purchase for a while. He approached David Delgizzi of Weston about buying the now-closed Lobster Pound restaurant at 157 Route 6A and the Truro Motor Inn in Truro, where a Housing Court judge had issued several orders to address substandard living conditions. Those orders were ignored by Delgizzi and his wife, Carolyn.
The last tenant at the Truro inn was evicted last month because of unaddressed building and health code violations. With the property unoccupied, the court ordered the utilities shut off.
“He won’t sell any of the properties,” Klink said of Delgizzi. “He’d rather run them as a slumlord, which is awful.”
The Eastham businessman has also had his eye on the five-acre Governor Prence Inn property in Orleans, which was bought by the town in 2021. “That was kind of a disappointment to us because we were going to buy it and develop workforce housing,” Klink said. “I was going to do a nice multi-family property for people who live and work in town.”
He even looked into the site owned by the Christmas Tree Shops but said the company plans to lease it rather than sell.
When Klink approached Zehnder about 177 Route 6A, the attorney said he intended to sell it. Zehnder had purchased it in 2005 for $699,000. Its assessed value before the fire was $965,600. Klink paid $500,000 for it.
The Fatal Fire
The February fire that killed six-year-old Kyi Odeen Bourne started in an illegally constructed apartment. According to earlier reporting in the Independent, the building was licensed for two commercial spaces on the main level and two residential apartments on the second floor. Sometime after 2017, two more apartments were added without the required permits or inspections for building code compliance. The upstairs bedrooms lacked smoke or carbon monoxide detectors, Building Inspector Martin Furtado told the Independent.
Kyi, whose family lived in one of the illegal apartments, was found by firefighters in an upstairs bedroom next to the room where the fire started. A relative told the Independent that Kyi and other family members initially ran downstairs, but the six-year-old, who was diagnosed with autism, must have panicked and run back to the bedroom unnoticed in the confusion.
When contacted by the Independent in March, Zehnder said he had signed a lease-to-purchase agreement with Peter Eli in 2017. While Zehnder still owned the building, under the name of a limited liability company called College Fund LLC, he said he had little involvement after the deal with Eli was signed. Correspondence from the town regarding the property went directly to Eli, he said, and it was Eli who constructed the illegal apartments without his knowledge.
The investigation into the fire found that the cause was faulty wiring in a fan, which was unrelated to the many violations connected to the construction.
Zehnder said in March he had terminated the lease-to-purchase agreement with Eli after the fire. Instead of repairing the building, Zehnder kept it boarded up until he sold it.
Building Commissioner Thomas Evers did not respond to an email asking whether Zehnder or Eli had been fined for a long list of building violations.
Finding a Home for a Family
Following the fire, Kyi’s eight-year-old sister, Kylie, his mother, Shantal Thomas-Johnson, and her new husband, Rahim Johnson, were left homeless.
According to Scott Carpenter, superintendent of the Monomoy Regional School District where Kylie and Kyi attended a Harwich elementary school, the family had been in the apartment on Route 6A for only a few days when the fire occurred. They and other relatives had been living with Kyi’s grandmother in crowded conditions before that.
“We had a very vulnerable family who lost a child and lost all of their belongings,” Carpenter said. “We let the community know, and they stepped in with support for the funeral. We were getting clothing donations and food donations, so we were able to step in to help, but the biggest challenge was keeping a roof over their heads.”
After the fire, the family lived at the Stone Horse dormitories in Harwich until the rooms were needed for seasonal workers. The school district then succeeded in finding a property owner with a seasonal rental where they stayed until the tourist season started.
Meanwhile, Joy Jordan, the school district’s community engagement coordinator, helped the family navigate the affordable housing system, said Carpenter, and they secured a long-term affordable unit in Chatham, which was ready for them to move in on July 1.