BY PAUL LEIGHTON
---- — A developer and a local veterans organization plan to swap buildings near the Beverly train station in a move that could pave the way for further development of the Rantoul Street corridor.
Windover Construction plans to buy the North Shore Veterans Counseling Services rooming house at 3 Park St. and knock it down to build apartments and shops.
Meanwhile, the veterans organization will buy a building at 45 Broadway that had been slated for demolition until it was purchased by Windover in September.
“I think it helps them and it helps us,” North Shore Veterans Counseling Services board member Victor Capozzi said.
Windover, which has built two residential buildings on Rantoul Street and is about to construct a third, has long coveted the block directly across from the train station as an ideal location for development.
The Manchester-by-the-Sea company already owns three other parcels on the block. The purchase of the rooming house, which is the former Press Box barroom, would give Windover enough land to start building a “mixed use” project that includes residential and retail, said Lee Dellicker, the company’s president.
“I’ve had plans to do residential housing on that block for a long time but have not owned the whole block,” Dellicker said. “This is just one step further for me getting close to our vision of doing more residential and retail in that area.”
Dellicker said he does not know how big the project will be at this point in terms of the number of apartments.
The only parcel on the block not owned by Windover is the Casa de Lucca restaurant. Dellicker said the company probably will not buy that building.
“That’s a nice old historic building that I think we can work around and accomplish a project that will still be great for the neighborhood,” Dellicker said.
Both the former Press Box and the Casa de Lucca buildings, built in 1886 and 1894, were declared “historically significant” by the Massachusetts Historical Commission in 2008. The commission said both are former railway hotels that reflect a significant period of the city’s history, when the railroad came to Beverly in the 19th century.
The city’s Historic District Commission has the authority to delay demolition of a historic building for one year.
Dellicker said it is not “economically feasible” to restore the Press Box building.
“I would argue that it is well beyond its ability to be saved,” he said. “To be able to save another building (45 Broadway) that was slated to come down is great, and it opens up the site for what I think will be a project that will bring strong economic development to the whole area.”
If Windover does go ahead with its development plans, it will most likely benefit from a newly instituted tax incentive plan approved by the City Council on Monday.
For developers who build residential projects along Rantoul Street near the train station, the council voted to grant a 70 percent break on their property taxes for the first five years and 30 percent for the next five years. Councilors said the plan is designed to revitalize Rantoul Street with residential and retail development.
Windover was in line to be the first recipient of the tax break for its Enterprise apartment project one block down Rantoul Street, but the company decided to build it without the tax break to avoid perceptions of favoritism. That project, which includes 45 apartments in a four-story building at 79 Rantoul St., is scheduled to begin next week with the demolition of the Enterprise car rental building.
At the time he made the deals involving the Park Street and Broadway buildings, Dellicker said, he didn’t know if the tax incentive plan would be approved.
“I’m very happy that it passed,” he said. “It will certainly help bring this project to reality.”
Windover purchased the property at 45 Broadway in September for $400,000 from Donald Kowalski. Kowalski had planned to knock the building down because he could not find an agency to operate it as a rooming house, the purpose it has served for most of the last 100 years.
The building has been vacant since March 2010. In June 2010, Bradley Killam, a 56-year-old Beverly man, was beaten to death inside the empty building. Michael Bryson and Eric Roberts pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and were sentenced to 17 to 18 years in state prison.
Capozzi said the Broadway building is a better location for the veterans rooming house than next to the busy train station. The building is also in better condition than 3 Park St., he said.
Capozzi said North Shore Veterans Counseling will maintain the historic character of 45 Broadway, a three-story Victorian built in 1859. It is known as the William Endicott House after its original owner, a direct descendent of John Endicott, the first governor of Massachusetts.
“All we want to do is paint it and fix it up so it stays looking like an old Victorian,” Capozzi said. “We have no desire to take the building apart or add onto it.”
The number of rooms for veterans will go from 30 in its current location to 16 at the Broadway site. Capozzi said 20 veterans are currently living at 3 Park St.
Capozzi said the move to 45 Broadway should be made by March 1.
Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or firstname.lastname@example.org.