BEVERLY – The developer of a proposed six-story apartment building on Rantoul Street stated its case once again Tuesday night that the project would provide much-needed housing and continue to revitalize that section of the city.
About 70 people attended the latest public hearing at the Senior Center on Depot 2, the name for the building with 115 apartments that would be located on a city block across from the Beverly train depot.
Some residents have raised concerns about the size of the building and how it will fit into the area, which is a National Register Historic District. The developer, Beverly Crossing, would demolish three historic buildings to make way for the new building.
Architect Thad Siemasko, representing Beverly Crossing, said Depot 2 would be the latest project by the developer to replace a deteriorating section of Rantoul Street with a new building that has revitalized the area and sparked other improvements.
“For us the fabric (of Rantoul Street) was torn and tattered and we put it back together,” Siemasko said.
Siemasko said the company determined that it was not worth preserving the Casa de Lucca and Press Box buildings, two former hotels across from the train depot that were built when the railroad first came to the city.
Siemasko downplayed the significance of the city’s railroad history, saying more people originally arrived to the area by boat than railroad. Planning Board Chairwoman Ellen Hutchinson criticized those remarks, pointing out that Beverly Crossing nominated the area as a historic district in order to take advantage of historic tax credits.
“Downplaying the railroad is a little disingenuous,” Hutchinson said.
Beverly Crossing attorney Miranda Gooding said there is a “very real demand” for more housing in the city. She said the occupancy rate of existing Beverly Crossing apartment buildings on Rantoul Street is 98 percent. Twenty-eight percent of the residents in those buildings come from Beverly originally, she said.
“There is a need among Beverly residents as well as among folks across the North Shore,” Gooding said.
Gooding said the new apartment buildings have increased the value of neighboring properties, citing numbers as high as a 162 percent increase.
“If you drive down Rantoul Street today, you’ll notice the so-called missing pieces have largely been filled in,” she said. “There’s new investment, not just with big projects but with smaller buildings. It’s bringing in new residents who support existing businesses.”
Planning Board member Ned Barrett said he had concerns about the density of the project, with one large building replacing three existing buildings. But he also praised Beverly Crossing for its efforts.
“In my time on the board I think more work has gone into the design of the project than any other,” Barrett said.
The Planning Board continued the hearing until its next meeting on Oct. 22.
Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or email@example.com.