By Paul Leighton
BEVERLY — A building that historic preservationists had hoped to save could soon be knocked down to make way for a Walgreens.
The building's owners have filed an application with the city's Planning Board to demolish the structure and build a Walgreens pharmacy.
The building is at the corner of Dodge and Conant streets in North Beverly and now houses a Coldwell Banker real estate office. It was built in 1715 and is one of the last remaining First Period homes from Beverly's earliest settlement.
Last year, the city's Historic District Commission deemed the building historically significant and voted to impose a one-year demolition delay, hoping it would encourage the owners to preserve the building or sell it to someone who would.
But the owners are free to knock it down once the delay expires next year.
"That's very bad, both from the point of view of losing a First Period house and from the point of view of urban design," Historic Commission Chairman William Finch said of the Walgreens plan. "It's taking what is a well-designed streetscape with a character-full building and turning it into another big box."
The building is part of a strip mall on Dodge Street owned by Westward Apple Orchards Limited Partnership. The owners recently received a letter of intent from Walgreens agreeing to move into the location when a new building is constructed, said Westward managing partner Landers Symes.
The owners are negotiating a lease agreement with Walgreens. If those plans fall through, the building would still be knocked down, Symes said.
"The building there now is just so functionally obsolete that it's very difficult to find a tenant," he said.
Symes said the owners would seek permission to include a drive-through window in the Walgreens. At 13,600 square feet, the store would be about the same size as the CVS/pharmacy across Dodge Street in the North Beverly Plaza.
The wood-frame house was built by a shoemaker named Nehemiah Wood between 1715 and 1725 and was later owned by Nathaniel Greenwood, an officer in the Boston Regiment. The building was a grocery store in the early 1900s. It was bought by Johnny Appleseed's in 1947 and became the clothing company's headquarters.
Symes said Coldwell Banker would move into a section of the strip mall that would be preserved. Symes Associates, North Shore Bank and Country Curtains would remain in their current locations in the mall.
This would be the second Walgreens in Beverly. The Washington-Beadle School at the corner of Rantoul and Elliott streets was knocked down in 1997 and replaced with a Walgreens. In 2010, a new CVS opened across the street from that Walgreens.
Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.