By a 5-to-5 vote, the Peabody City Council last week effectively scuttled plans to turn a downtown office building into much-needed apartments.
It will be a shame if that kills the project for good because there is plenty to like about the plan to transform an office building at 98 Main St., owned by North Shore Community Action Programs, into a 10-unit apartment building.
The developers, Norman Lee and James Gebo, have already initiated four successful projects in Peabody. The plan calls for 10 one-bedroom units of 500 to 550 square feet, with two apartments in the basement, three on the first floor, three on the second floor and two on the third. And there is plenty of space for parking, with each unit getting two spaces.
Of course, nothing is simple in Peabody, and it looks like parking is the major issue. Not parking for the apartments, but for the neighboring Knights of Columbus Hall, which currently uses the 98 Main St. spaces to accommodate overflow parking at evening bingo games.
In the days before last week’s vote, Councilor-at-Large Dave Gravel admitted as such, calling the 15 to 20 spaces that would be lost by the Knights “the crux of the issue.”
At last week’s council meeting, however, Knights member Tim Barry said the problem wasn’t parking — it was the type of people who would move in to the area.
“Someone who rents an apartment is not vested in the city,” he said.
We disagree. More Americans are renting these days in the wake of the Great Recession and a crumbling housing market. Home ownership is simply too expensive or too risky for many people right now — it has nothing to do with being invested in a city, a neighborhood or a street. The city can’t afford to cast those people aside.