SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

May 2, 2014

In Danvers, former eyesore becomes a home

BY ETHAN FORMAN
STAFF WRITER

---- — DANVERS — It took about five years, including a two-year court battle and nine months of construction. But on Wednesday, state and local officials celebrated the conversion of an eyesore — an abandoned, illegal rooming house — into an affordable home for two families.

“This has been quite a road for 24 Cherry St.,” said Danvers Housing Authority Executive Director Cindy Dunn, who oversaw the project, after the town took the property for back taxes and then sold it for $65,000 to the Housing Authority.

The renovation of the 1847 Stephen Granville Housewright house cost more than expected — about $852,000. Not only did the process take a long time, but the house had two additions in the back that required demolition. There was added expense to make the first-floor apartment wheelchair-accessible.

The second apartment on the two upper floors is unique in affordable housing, officials said, because it has four bedrooms — meant for an inter-generational family with parents, a grandparent and three children.

The first family moved in the same day as the dedication.

The town began proceedings to take the home in 2006 for about $30,000 in unpaid taxes, after the owner moved to Florida and became ill. The owner died shortly after the foreclosure was completed. The house had been left full of antiques and personal belongings, looking as if someone had just left one day and never returned. The heirs auctioned off what was left in the house, but things did not go so smoothly even after the town sold the property to the Housing Authority.

The heirs contested the taking and a two-year legal battle ensued, but the heirs lost the case.

Those gathered Wednesday morning included members of the Danvers Housing Authority; town officials, including Selectman Gardner Trask, Town Manager Wayne Marquis, Assistant Town Manager Diane Norris and Assistant Planning and Human Services Director Sue Fletcher; officials from the Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston and Salem Five Bank, which stepped in to finance the project; state Sen. Joan Lovely; members of the North Shore HOME Consortium; and representatives of the architect, Narrow Gate Architecture of Boston, and builder, Classic Construction Inc.

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