BY PAUL LEIGHTON
---- — BEVERLY — The fate of a key block of real estate directly across from the train depot is about to take shape.
A developer said he is planning to tear down two historic buildings on the block to build a four-story building with 60 apartments, retail space on the first floor, and parking underneath the new building.
The plan would continue the redevelopment of lower Rantoul Street by Windover, the Manchester-by-the-Sea company that has built several residential buildings along the street.
Windover President Lee Dellicker said he has met with neighbors to show them a preliminary design of the proposed building and intends to submit plans to the city early next year, when a one-year demolition delay imposed by the city on the two historic buildings expires.
“I’m close to presenting a plan that does demolish the existing buildings,” Dellicker said.
Windover has also purchased another building on the block, the Casa de Lucca restaurant. Dellicker said the company is not planning to demolish that building, “but I reserve the right to change my mind.”
The buildings that would be knocked down are the former Hotel Trafton at 9 Park St., perhaps better known as the former Press Box barroom, and the former Cushing Carriage building at 142 Rantoul St., which currently houses Sullivan Chiropractic.
Windover filed a permit to demolish the buildings last year. On Jan. 31, the Beverly Historic District Commission ruled that the buildings are “historically significant” and “preferably preserved” and imposed a one-year demolition delay.
Windover is free to knock down the buildings once the delay expires.
In September, the Massachusetts Historical Commission voted to include the area around the train depot on the National Register of Historic Places and declared both buildings “significant contributing elements” to the district.
Ironically, it was Windover that nominated the district to be listed on the National Register so that the company would be eligible for more than $1 million in historic rehabilitation tax credits for its renovation of a former box factory on Pleasant Street into veterans housing. But inclusion on the National Register does not prohibit buildings from being demolished.
Dellicker has said it would be too expensive to renovate the former Hotel Trafton, which was built in 1884. After listening to preservationists’ concerns over losing the building, Dellicker said Windover has changed the design of the new apartment building to “give a nod” to the architectural significance of the Hotel Trafton.
The Trafton and the adjacent Casa de Lucca building are both former railway hotels that preservationists say are the last of their kind in the area.
Dellicker said he had given up on trying to buy Casa de Lucca because of the controversy over the other two historic buildings. But he said the restaurant owners contacted him two months ago about buying it.
Windover bought the Casa de Lucca last month for $640,000, according to deed records. The restaurant, which has been owned and operated by Mark and Luz Clinton since 1993, has closed. The Clintons could not be reached for comment.
Dellicker said the current plans call for the Casa de Lucca building to remain standing, with the new apartment building wrapping around it. He said Windover also purchased the restaurant’s liquor license, so it might remain as a restaurant under a new operator.
“I’m not sure what I’ll do with it yet,” Dellicker said. “But to have it as part of the overall plan is better than not having it at all.”
Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or email@example.com.