BEVERLY – The proposed Depot Square II apartment building received a favorable vote from a city board on Thursday night at City Hall.

The Design Review Board voted 4-1 to recommend that the Planning Board, which has the final say on the project, approve the plan to build an apartment building on a city block on Rantoul Street across from the train station.

"I like the way this has progressed," board member Rachel Poor said of the plans. "I think it fits."

"It's an attractive building," added board member Emily Hutchings.

Board members, and some members of the public who have opposed the project, said they were generally pleased that developer Beverly Crossing had changed its original plan and will now preserve the former Casa de Lucca building and incorporate it as part of the project.

The Casa building, a former historic hotel, would be connected to the new building by a glass enclosure. The building would range from four to six stories and include 106 apartments, retail space on the first floor, a courtyard, and underground parking.

Only a dozen people attended the meeting, a sharp contrast to previous meetings that attracted as many as 100.

"The public's endurance has worn off a little bit," said Morningside Drive resident Wendy Pearl in her remarks to the board.

Pearl said many residents have objected to the size and scale of the building, but she acknowledged that Beverly Crossing made a "huge compromise" by agreeing to save the Casa de Lucca and said the public is going to have to compromise as well.

Board member Caroline Baird Mason, who voted against the plan, said she wants to see the developer preserve or replicate as many of the Casa's historic architectural elements as possible. One of the conditions imposed by the board was for the developer to consult with the Beverly Historic District Commission on the project.

Despite the preservation of the Casa de Lucca, Longwood Avenue resident Matt Pujo noted that Beverly Crossing is still planning to demolish two other historic buildings on the block as part of the project, which he said would eliminate the area's designation as a national historic district.

Pujo said the Depot Square II building, as well as other apartment buildings that Beverly Crossing has built along Rantoul Street, looks like a "brick box."

"You look at this and say, 'This just doesn't belong in Beverly,'" he said.

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

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