SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

September 13, 2013

Beverly mayor: Job figures sound

Predicts up to 7,500 jobs on Brimbal Ave.

BY PAUL LEIGHTON
STAFF WRITER

---- — BEVERLY — In making his pitch for the Brimbal Avenue interchange project, Mayor Bill Scanlon has said the road improvements could help to create up to 7,500 jobs and $8 million in annual tax revenue for the city.

Opponents of the project have criticized those numbers as an exaggeration, if not a total fabrication.

With a public hearing on a key part of the plan set to continue on Monday, Scanlon acknowledged that those figures are estimates, but also said they are based on sound projections.

“We feel that these are reasonable numbers,” he said.

The theory behind the Brimbal Avenue project is that, in addition to improving traffic flow and safety, it would open up acres of undeveloped land on both sides of Route 128 and spur additional development at existing businesses in the surrounding area.

Watch video of Mayor Bill Scanlon explaining the Brimbal Avenue project

According to figures the city provided for a traffic study on the project’s impact, all of the work could lead to the creation of 7,338 jobs from developments on 18 separate parcels of land in the area.

Neiland Douglas, a member of the city’s Economic and Community Development Council who helped to formulate the numbers, said the job projections were based on a comprehensive analysis of all of the properties in the affected area and conversations with many of the current land owners.

“It’s really very realistic,” Douglas said. “It’s not pie in the sky. (Scanlon) didn’t float these numbers from the hip pocket.”

A chart included in an environmental form filed by the city says the project would create 1,983 jobs at property on Dunham Road owned by Cummings Properties.

In coming up with that number, Scanlon said the city used a standard formula that projects the number of potential jobs per square foot of developable land.

“There are tables that suggest how many square feet per employee depending on the kind of activity,” he said. “You look at the number of square feet that would reasonably be built, divided by the space per employee, and it gives you an estimated number of employees.”

Using that approach, the city has estimated that land owned by North Shore Music Theatre on Dunham Road could produce 675 more jobs, and that three parcels of land owned by Richard and Leo Maestranzi along Route 128 could generate 1,495 jobs.

Without getting into specific job projections, Cummings Properties founder Bill Cummings, music theater owner Bill Hanney, and Richard Maestranzi have all expressed support for the Brimbal Avenue project.

Douglas acknowledged that some of the projections are shakier than others. Scanlon’s 7,500 figure includes 800 jobs based on an expansion of Beverly Hospital, but those plans appear to be on hold since a merger with Lahey Health.

In the case of the Roller Palace on Sohier Road, the city speculated that the land would be bought by another owner and generate 145 jobs. Douglas said it now appears that is not likely to happen in the near future.

The city’s projections also include 300 jobs at a potential development on a portion of the former city landfill off Brimbal Avenue, another projection that Douglas said is not likely to happen soon.

“When you do an evaluation of this nature, you’re planning out there for five to 10 years,” he said. “And in five to 10 years a lot of things can happen.”

The City Council and Planning Board will continue their joint public hearing on Monday at 8 p.m. at City Hall. The hearing is to consider a proposed rezoning of land across from the Vittori-Rocci Post that would allow for the relocation of the connector road and construction of a $20 million shopping plaza.

The first part of the hearing on Sept. 3 drew a large crowd, with the overwhelming majority of the speakers against the plan due to increased traffic the plaza would generate.

Scanlon is pushing for the rezoning in order to begin the first phase of the project. That would include moving the connector road, installing roundabouts at both ends of the connector, widening a portion of Brimbal Avenue, and putting traffic lights at the corner of Brimbal and Herrick Street Extension.

The second phase would involve building a bridge over Route 128 to Dunham Road in order to take traffic off Brimbal Avenue and improve access to the North Shore Music Theatre and the undeveloped land.

Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or pleighton@salemnews.com.