BEVERLY — One of the most controversial developments in the city is about to become a reality.
Workers are scheduled to begin demolishing three buildings near the Beverly train depot next week to make way for the new Depot Square II apartment building.
The building will range from four to six stories tall and will include 106 apartments, retail space on the first floor, and 106 parking spaces in a two-level garage under the building.
The $47 million project faced strong opposition because it will essentially replace a block of historic buildings, including the Press Box building that was once the Hotel Trafton. The developer, Beverly Crossing, eventually agreed to save another historic hotel building, the former Casa de Lucca restaurant, and incorporate it into the design of the new building.
"It's been a long road, for us and for Beverly," Beverly Crossing president Chris Koeplin said.
Koeplin said construction will take about 18 months, with the goal of opening the building toward the end of 2022 or the beginning of 2023.
The Planning Board approved the project in January 2020 after months of debate. Proponents said the new building will continue the rejuvenation of Rantoul Street, where several new apartment buildings have been built over the years, drawing new restaurants, breweries and coffee shops.
Others said the building will destroy the historic character of the area with another tall building and contribute to traffic and parking problems. About 2,000 people signed a petition against the project.
In addition to the old Press Box building, Beverly Crossing will demolish the former Sullivan Chiropractic and Enterprise car rental buildings. The Casa de Lucca building will be renovated and connected to the new building by a glass enclosure.
The Press Box and Casa de Lucca buildings were once hotels associated with the history of the railroad in Beverly and contributed to the area receiving a designation as a national historic district.
Koeplin said the decision to preserve the Casa de Lucca building led to a "balanced outcome for the majority of the people."
"I think a lot of people are at a place where it's been a long time coming to see something positive happen on this block," he said.
Koeplin said Beverly Crossing already has commitments from businesses to fill about half of the 9,000 square feet of retail space. "That's telling during COVID," he said. "Retail and vendors want to be here." He declined to identify the businesses.
As part of the approval process, Beverly Crossing was required to provide 12 affordable housing units. The company is satisfying that requirement by providing those units at buildings at 461 Rantoul St. and 2 Hardy St.
Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2535, by email at email@example.com, or on Twitter at @heardinbeverly.