BY PAUL LEIGHTON
---- — BEVERLY — Mayor Bill Scanlon has long touted the Brimbal Avenue interchange project as a key to unlocking the economic potential of more than 500 acres of land near Route 128.
A 153-page environmental form filed with the state reveals just what the mayor has been talking about.
The form, filed by the city and the state’s Department of Transportation, lists 18 “potential” developments that could create 7,338 jobs, including a $95 million expansion at Beverly Hospital.
In an interview, Scanlon said the list represents “assumptions” about developments that might become reality if the state goes forward with the $25 million Brimbal Avenue project.
“It’s conceivable they could happen,” Scanlon said. “You can almost be certain that not all of them would happen.”
Proponents of the Brimbal Avenue project say the work would create easy access to acres of undeveloped land around Route 128, thus making it worthwhile for landowners to develop their properties or expand what is already there. The project, which would be done in two phases, calls for a series of new interchanges between the highway and surrounding roads, including construction of a bridge over Route 128 from Brimbal Avenue to Dunham Road.
In an environmental notification form filed with the state last month, the city listed a range of potential projects, from a shopping plaza on Brimbal Avenue to a hotel on Dunham Road to a recreational center on Sohier Road. By far, the largest project mentioned in the filing is a potential $95 million “on-site investment” at Beverly Hospital’s 48-acre campus that would create 800 jobs.
In a separate filing last year seeking a state grant for the Brimbal Avenue project, the application said the hospital is “very interested” in an expansion and has “shown a real interest” in building a connector road from Brimbal Avenue through undeveloped land to the hospital campus.
Scanlon said that information came from discussions he had with former Beverly Hospital CEO Kenneth Hanover. Beverly Hospital has since affiliated with Burlington-based Lahey Health.
In a statement, current Beverly Hospital CEO Denis Conroy said the hospital supports Scanlon’s efforts to pursue the Brimbal Avenue interchange project but said any decision about expanding “will be made in the context of an assessment of Lahey Health Swide needs and opportunities.”
“Our efforts currently are focused on growing and developing the Lahey Health network,” Conroy said.
Some of the other landowners mentioned as potential developers said they were unaware of the information in the state filing pertaining to them. One potential project is listed under the name of Bojem Realty Trust, which is managed by Margaret Breen, the owner of the Roller Palace and Soccer Etc.
The state filing says Bojem Realty Trust could add 5,880 square feet and create 145 jobs with a recreational center development.
Breen said that kind of expansion at Roller Palace & Soccer Etc. is unlikely.
“We don’t have anywhere to expand,” she said. “It’s our building and the rest is parking, and we need parking.”
Other landowners said the potential for development on their property is real if the interchange project goes forward. Richard Maestranzi who, along with his brother Leo, owns about 25 acres on both sides of Route 128, said a new road would open up access to his undeveloped land.
“Right now, I’m sort of in limbo until the road goes in; then, it’s going to be valuable property for somebody to develop,” he said.
Bill Hanney, who owns North Shore Music Theatre on Dunham Road, said he has 18 to 20 acres of extra land that could be developed with better access. Hanney said he has no specific plans but mentioned a restaurant, shops, a function hall and housing as possible uses for the land.
“Any time you can bring more money into the theater property, it can be there longer,” Hanney said. “If (the Brimbal Avenue project) became real, we would seriously sit down and think about it.”
The project that has the best chance of proceeding is a proposed $20 million shopping plaza on Brimbal Avenue across from the Vittori-Rocci Post. Property owner CEA Group has written a letter of intent promising to build the plaza if the state comes through with a $5 million grant to construct the first phase of the Brimbal Avenue project.
Scanlon is hoping the state, which last year gave $500,000 toward the design of the first phase, awards the $5 million grant soon so that construction on a new connector road between Sohier Road and Brimbal Avenue could begin this fall.
The status of the second and larger phase of the project, a $20 million plan that includes the bridge over Route 128, is still undetermined.
Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or firstname.lastname@example.org.