SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

January 30, 2013

Our view: Preservation, development make for odd bedfellows

Those looking for evidence that state and federal programs for economic development often clash and overlap in confusing, seemingly contradictory ways need look no further than downtown Beverly.

That’s where Windover Construction is pushing for National Register of Historic Places recognition for the Beverly Depot-Odell Park Historic District. At the same time, Windover hopes to demolish two historic buildings in the district, structures the company cited as significant in its push for National Register status.

Confused yet? We don’t blame you.

As with most state and federal programs, it comes down to money. Putting the Beverly Depot area on the National Register would make Windover eligible for state and federal tax credits for its project at 60 Pleasant St., where the company plans to turn an old box factory into housing for homeless veterans.

Meanwhile, the company also hopes to raze the Press Box — the former bar and rooming house built in 1886 that was once the Hotel Trafton — and the former Cushing’s Carriage factory, built in 1870, to make way for a different apartment building.

In all, the $7.4 million project would be eligible for $4.9 million in state and federal historic rehabilitation credits, housing subsidies and tax credits.

Windover President Lee Dellicker agrees that the situation is “ironic” but notes the decrepit condition of the two buildings.

“They’re in terrible shape, they’re vacant, and they should come down,” he told reporter Paul Leighton last week.

Beverly Historical Commission Chairman Bill Finch told Leighton, “it’s called the good and the bad. The hope is to foster positive development both for historic buildings and non-historic buildings in the area. It’s a bit of a double-edged sword.”

We agree. While Windover’s approach seems odd on the surface, it’s perfectly legal. And make no mistake — the improvement of the Rantoul Street area around the train station is vital to the growth of Beverly’s economy.

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