PEABODY — The proposal to redevelop two rundown commercial buildings at 40-42 Endicott St. into a four-story condo building took center stage on Zoom at a May 14 public hearing after a majority on the City Council decided to take up a request for a special permit in a remote hearing.

Todisco Properties wants to redevelop the site of the two dilapidated buildings into 42 condos with parking beneath. Eight of the units would be affordable.

Peabody developer Pat Todisco purchased two properties that make up three-quarters of an acre, and is pitching the project as an investment in the city and a way to clean up an eyesore. 

The proposal has drawn some opposition in the neighborhood due to concerns about the scale of the building and increased traffic. About 30 people took part in the online Zoom hearing, which was broadcast on Peabody TV.

"The project is absurd," said Warren Street resident Stephen Kline. "You want to drop a four-story building into a neighborhood of single and two-family homes."

Peabody Attorney Athan Vontzalides confirmed Todisco has purchased the two properties and that the area is zoned for single- and two-family homes. 

Todisco intends to demolish two "eyesore" buildings and change the nonconformity in the neighborhood from commercial to residential. Access would be from Berry Street, a narrow side street toward the back of the properties across a city-owned lot. There would be 62 parking spaces, including 44 in an underground garage.

The plan also has to go before the Conservation Commission, Zoning Board of Appeals and the Planning Board for site plan review, Vontzalides said.

Councilor-at-large Anne Manning-Martin opposed the project, saying it does not meet the requirements of a change in nonconforming use, including a requirement it be in character with the neighborhood.

Todisco talked about his vision for downtown Peabody and his $11 million investment in the city. He told councilors he held a neighborhood meeting with 12 people who had concerns about traffic flow but were not against the proposal.

"I'm from Peabody, I love my city; I have no intention of going anywhere," he said.

Ward 3 Councilor James Moutsoulas said he walked the property over the past few weeks and spoke with neighbors who were not entirely against the project, but would be more inclined if one of the floors were removed. Moutsoulas said he has spoken with Todisco "and he was willing to knock off the top floor, and I hope that changes the conversation a bit."

"Don't take this personally," Quail Road resident Russ Donovan told Todisco, "it's not against the developer. It's against the development."

Donovan pointed out the city opposes a 133-unit 40B affordable condo development just up the road on King Street at the site of the former J.B. Thomas/Curahealth hospitals. Others also noted this proposal as a concern about the neighborhood becoming overdeveloped.

"We don't need this high density in this world of today of safe distancing," Donovan said. 

Andrew Beale, who lives at 129 Lowell St., said he "highly respects" Todisco's passion. "From all I know, he's a pretty nice guy, but I understand we have a high demand for housing in Peabody," he said. "I think we should be lucky to be a desirable community, but I think we need to develop a little more responsibly."

Beale suggested a "town home" project similar in style to one a few blocks away. 

Peabody Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Julie Daigle spoke in favor of the project as a way to create workforce housing.

She said Todisco was a man of his word. "He does the right thing and he cares and supports the community," Daigle said.

Janine Lafond, of 11 Berry St., agreed there were potential traffic problems, but that the city was working to address this. She looked forward to looking out her back door and seeing something other than the existing buildings, which she called "disgusting."

The hearing was recessed to the next council's meeting.

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