SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

March 15, 2012

Danvers condo project goes prefab

By Ethan Forman
Staff writer

DANVERS — An Elm Street condominium and commercial development took shape fast yesterday, thanks to the arrival of six trailer-sized prefabricated modular buildings from a New Hampshire builder in recent days.

A large crane lifted those sections into place yesterday, causing plenty of rubbernecking by passing drivers.

Some of the sections had to be stored at Tech-Air Systems, a commercial property a half-mile away on Maple Street. The last section was 16 feet wide, requiring a police detail to help guide traffic, the property's developer said.

Together, all six sections will form four condominiums at the back of 74 Elm St., just down the road from Danvers Square.

As the units were being lifted into place, one could see that kitchen cabinets, windows, walls and light fixtures had already been installed inside, along with the wiring and plumbing.

The family-owned Sabatini Development LLC of Beverly is constructing the $1.2 million project, which will include a total of five condominiums and two ground-floor commercial units.

The development is unique in that it's part fixer-upper, part new addition and part prefabricated construction.

The houselike office building, which town records show was built in 1853, was formerly the home of the Rosemary Walker Insurance Agency, which was acquired in 2009 by the Natick-based Eastern Insurance Group.

Last May, Sabatini bought the property for $425,000. To spruce up and enlarge it, the company gutted the office building, framed an addition at the front and added the prefab units at the back. The location is an easy walk to shops, banks, eateries, Town Hall and the library.

"If you lived here, you could almost get away without a car," said developer David Sabatini Jr., who said the condos will range in price from $230,000 to $299,000.

This was the first time the real estate development and construction company, which dates back to 1949, has used prefabricated buildings, said Laurie Sabatini Johnson, who helps run the business with her brother.

David Sabatini Jr. said the use of the prefabricated buildings from New England Homes of Dover, N.H., allowed him to build twice as fast and save money.

The development also has special meaning for the Sabatini family. In August, their mother, Florence "Dolly" Sabatini, died at age 76. Then in January, just as the project was starting, their father, Alipio "David" Sabatini, 83, the company's patriarch and treasurer, died. Florence Sabatini was president and managed the business for many years.

"My mom was, in particular, so excited about the project," Laurie Sabatini Johnson said.

Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at eforman@salemnews.com or on Twitter @DanverSalemNews.