SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

January 25, 2014

Downtown Peabody businesses must vacate proposed hotel site

By Alan Burke
Staff Writer

---- — PEABODY — Progress has its price.

In downtown Peabody, the plan to convert the O’Shea Building into a hotel will mean removing the three businesses on the ground floor, including barber David Serpa, who said he has been cutting hair at the site for 20 years.

“We have to leave,” he says. “We’re looking for a new location. ... And I’d like to find a spot here in the downtown area.”

“We’re trying to make this as painless and as sensitive as possible,” said developer Dan Bandar. “We’re looking at different options. They’re really wonderful tenants, and the last thing we want to do is hurt them.”

At the same time, he said, the interior of the building must be gutted and rebuilt.

“We’re working on it now, and we’re looking to start the process in the next few weeks.” The outside of the building is to remain as is, he added, and he doesn’t expect the work to interfere with downtown traffic. He anticipates the hotel to open 18 months from now.

The hotel is slated to include conference rooms and a restaurant on the ground floor. The hotel and restaurant are to be managed by New Hampshire-based Hay Creek Hotels, which runs several hotels, Bandar said. A decision on the type of restaurant to be installed is “still in the works,” said Bandar, who expects it will reflect the region.

“We are very, very motivated toward the city of Peabody,” Bandar said, referring to recent City Hall initiatives to revitalize the downtown. “You see what the mayor (Ted Bettencourt) is doing, and it’s exciting.”

Both the developer and the city are involved in a relocation program designed to help the tenants find other locations.

Bandar hopes to find some way to include Serpa’s shop as a hotel barbershop, but that becomes difficult in the short term with the building to be closed for more than a year.

“I didn’t save enough of my First Communion money to wait,” Serpa said, joking. Yet, he has no hard feelings toward Bandar.

“It’s nothing personal. It’s just business. The guy bought the building,” he said. Serpa originally bought George’s Barbershoppe from barber and retired police officer George Couris. He retained the name and built a loyal clientele, people who know where to find him.

“I just had a client come all the way from Newton, N.H.” To retain such customers, he is seeking a new spot downtown where parking would be convenient.

If it can be arranged, Serpa won’t rule out a return to the O’Shea Building. “

Maybe they can section off three (hundred) to 500 square feet for me. But that’s in a year and a half.” He expressed more concern over the fact that while he once had the downtown haircutting business to himself, a number of barbers are now operating nearby.

Serpa’s neighbor Yanny Zhu at China Corner restaurant seems less resigned to moving out.

“I’ve not really decided what I am going to do,” she said, adding that it is something that she needs to discuss with the developer. “We still need to have a talk.”

Business is good right where she is, Zhu said. “I love the area.”

A furniture store also operates on the ground floor. Bandar declines to discuss whether these businesses hold leases and what that might mean.

“We have the option of doing what we need to do,” he said.

Serpa, meanwhile, described himself as a tenant-at-will.

Alan Burke can be reached at aburke@salemnews.com.