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June 3, 2011

Historic or obsolete, Beverly building's demise delayed

BEVERLY — To the hundreds of people who drive past it every day, the real estate office building in the strip mall at the busy corner of Dodge and Conant streets looks like, well, a real estate office building in a strip mall.

To the members of the Beverly Historic District Commission, however, it's historically significant and worth saving.

The five-member commission has voted unanimously to impose a one-year delay on the owners' plan to demolish the nearly 300-year-old building. In its ruling, the commission said the structure, which was built in 1715, is one of the last remaining First Period homes from Beverly's earliest settlement.

"One by one, they're going to disappear," Commission Chairman Bill Finch said. "We think it's important to preserve this for reasons of community value."

The building's owners use another phrase to describe it — functionally obsolete.

"It does not work anymore, so we don't feel we have much choice," said Landers Symes of Symes Associates, a partner in the strip mall where the building is located. "We have a responsibility to our investors and to the people who own the strip mall that we have to do what we have to do."

Symes said the owners want to knock down the building and a portion of the attached strip mall and redevelop the 1.6-acre site, which is at 48 Dodge St., across from the Shaw's Plaza in North Beverly.

Coldwell Banker, which has its offices in the old house, would move to vacant space on the other side of the strip mall. What would be built in its place has yet to be determined, Symes said.

None of that will happen until at least May of next year. The Historic District Commission can't stop buildings from being torn down, but it does have the authority to delay for one year the demolition of structures it deems historically significant and "preferably preserved."

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