SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

May 20, 2013

Cummings to build on Dunham Road site

BY PAUL LEIGHTON
STAFF WRITER

---- — BEVERLY — Cummings Properties is planning to build a five-story office building on Dunham Road in what would be the company’s first development on the 54 acres of land it purchased in 2011.

The building would go up next to the only building currently on the heavily wooded site, the former Parker Brothers headquarters. A five-story parking garage would be built next door.

Cummings Properties President and CEO Dennis Clarke said the company would lease space in the new building for office and research use, as it does at Cummings Center, its large office park on Elliott Street.

“On a long-term basis we’re very optimistic about the city of Beverly and the Dunham Road site in particular,” Clarke said. “We certainly enjoy our stewardship of Cummings Center and being very much a part of the city there.”

Cummings Properties, which is based in Woburn, bought the 54 acres for $2.3 million in December 2011.

The land, called 50 Dunham Road, is considered ripe for more development because of the anticipated construction of a new interchange that would allow direct access to the site from Route 128, making it more attractive to companies looking for office or research space.

Clarke said the planned five-story building, which he described as “relatively modest,” is not dependent on the interchange being constructed.

“But in terms of the future of that whole neighborhood on both sides of Route 128, that plan to do the interchange is going to make all the difference in the world in what can happen in that section of the city,” Clarke said.

Cummings Properties, however, is in a legal battle with the city over environmental concerns about the property.

The company filed a complaint in Middlesex Superior Court last year over a Beverly Conservation Commission ruling regarding what constitutes a vernal pool on the site and the city’s prohibition against building within 100 feet of the pools.

The Dunham Castle Condominium Trust, an association representing the 60-unit condominium development next door to 50 Dunham Road, has filed a motion to intervene in the case, saying it has a stake in the court’s decision.

The condo association hired a lawyer last year when Cummings Properties cut down more than 150 trees on the property in front of the condo development, eliminating a buffer between residents and Route 128.

In its filing, the condo association said residents will be affected by “the loss of what has historically been undeveloped woodlands.”

Clarke said the proposed building would not be near a vernal pool and would not be impacted by the litigation. He said the company is not being confrontational with its legal action, but wants a third party to sort out a disagreement over how the environmental regulations should be interpreted.

Clarke said the new building would go up on the site of the current parking lot for the Parker Brothers building, which is set back in the woods and is not visible from Dunham Road or Route 128.

The company has asked the city’s Planning Board to schedule a public hearing on the project. Clarke said the building would probably not be built until next year.

The current building on the site has three tenants, including the headquarters for the Fantastic Sams hair salon chain. Clarke said the company has made improvements to the four-story building and recently signed leases with two new tenants.

“We’re doing our best to lease space at both Cummings Center and at 50 Dunham Road,” he said. “We’re continuing to hope that the economy will steadily improve.”

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