Beverly property swap helps veterans’ group and development plan
A veterans' service agency is getting a new building and a local developer has a chance to build a mixed-use project after they agreed to exchange buildings near the Beverly train station.
North Shore Veterans Counseling Services, which runs its program and a rooming house at 9 Park St., is acquiring a vacant former rooming house at 45 Broadway from Windover Construction, while Windover will receive the Park Street building. The sales are set to close on Dec. 20.
The swap will enable North Shore to move its operations to a smaller building that's in better condition and more suited to the group's needs than its current location, according to executive director Lynn Pellino.
For Windover, the purchase of 9 Park St. significantly advances the Manchester-by-the-Sea-based company's goal of building a retail/residential development on the block bordered by Pleasant, Park, and Rantoul streets and Railroad Avenue.
The development, which calls for ground-floor retail shops and 50 to 75 apartments upstairs, would be built on the 9 Park St. site and adjoining land it already owns, according to company president Lee Dellicker.
"It's a win for Windover, a win for North Shore Veterans, and a win for the city," Dellicker said of the swap.
He said the city gains because having more residents living downtown will boost its economy, and because 45 Broadway, a mid-1800s building that was considered for demolition, will be preserved. While it is also historic, Dellicker said the 1886 Park Street building is in such poor shape that restoration isn't a feasible option.
The Windover project was dealt a potential blow Dec. 3 when Mayor William F. Scanlon Jr. vetoed a City Council order that would have provided tax breaks to businesses locating in the Rantoul Street area near the train station.
Dellicker said getting the tax break — along with obtaining needed permits and financing — were key to making his project work, citing the high cost of building underground parking.
The council order would have — for five years — exempted developers from 70 percent of the added taxes generated from a residential project, and 30 percent for five subsequent years. In his veto letter, Scanlon said he agreed in concept with the measure but as worded "it relinquishes the city's right to negotiate with prospective developers by providing the fixed 70 percent" tax break. He said he could support a fixed discount of 40 percent, with the option to negotiate up to 70 percent.
City Council president Paul Guanci said the board will consider an override of the mayor's veto at its meeting Monday.
The project would be the latest in a series undertaken in Beverly by Windover. In 2005, it embarked on a goal of creating a mixed-use development of 450 housing units and retail space on the block that includes 9 Park St. and an adjoining block at the corner of Pleasant and Rantoul streets. In a first step, the company in 2006 constructed Depot Square, a 46-unit condominium.
The overall plan was stalled by the poor economy and the MBTA's decision in 2009 to purchase by eminent domain the 1½-acre site Windover was operating as a private commuter parking lot to build a garage. Construction began recently on the $34 million T project.
Windover has continued building in that area, however. Last June, it completed a 38-unit apartment building at 375 Rantoul St. Currently, it is constructing a 45-unit apartment building on the former Enterprise Rent-A-Car site at 79 Rantoul St., and 33 units of affordable housing for veterans at 60 Pleasant St.
Formerly occupied by the Press Box bar, 9 Park St. was acquired by North Shore in 2010. The group operates its programs on the ground floor, and its 30 residential rooms — 15 of them currently occupied — on the upper floors.
The idea for the building swap arose earlier this year when Dellicker learned that the owner of 45 Broadway planned to raze the building. At the time, a demolition delay ordered by the Historical Commission because of the building's age was soon to expire.
Dellicker had an interest in purchasing 9 Park St., and North Shore was seeking a more suitable building, so the two decided that Windover would purchase 45 Broadway and then sell it to North Shore, with the veterans' group in turn selling 9 Park, according to Dellicker, who credited Scanlon with helping bring the parties together.
Pellino said the veterans' group has begun interior work to prepare 45 Broadway for its new use.
"It's good news for the program," she said. "The building will better suit [our] needs. It is smaller-scale, but the building is so much more cosmetically pleasing to the eye. It is also well maintained."
Pellino said her group expects to move to its new quarters in March.