PEABODY — The Centennial Park commercial site where, 18 months ago, an industrial fire sent thick smoke rising from a flaming vat of Styrofoam products, is now a top-of-the-line metal warehouse — and the largest supplier of solar power for the city. 

The new blue building on Fifth Street replaces the one where Lifoam produced Styrofoam products like coolers and pool noodles, until a metal light bulb caused an industrial fire that raged for days. The City Council recently approved a special permit for CEVA Logistics, a trucking terminal, to operate out of part of the new facility. 

"We're building a better building. It's more energy-efficient," property owner David Harrison said. "It's better insulated than your house, by far. Everything is high-efficiency – the gas heaters we're putting in; the ESFR sprinkler system with a booster pump is a phenomenal system. We're spending a lot of money, but I'm doing it right so we only have to do it once."

The entire building will be lit with LED lighting. 

The roof is lined with 2,222 solar panels that make up a 711-kilowatt system, according to Harrison. Since the solar power went online in May, it has generated enough energy to power 32 homes for a year. 

Harrison chose to have solar panels on the roof not only for the environmental benefits, he said, but because that added revenue is another way to support the building. Energy from the roof is directed to the Peabody Municipal Light Plant, which pays him 5.5 cents per kilowatt hour — a fixed price for the next 20 years. Harrison's future tenants will buy power from PMLP.  

"This is a really good thing for Peabody," he said, "because they know their fixed cost for the next 20 years."

CEVA Logistics, the building's first tenant, has been working out of South Boston for 15 years, and provides air export and ground services throughout New England. The Peabody location will support pickup and delivery operations in 40,000 square feet of the new warehouse, which is expected to be complete by March.

The remaining 105,000 square feet won't be finished until after Harrison finds a tenant, he said, so he can customize the building to the needs of the business. He has been approached, he said, by a tire wholesale company and a seafood business, but rejected both businesses. 

"Tires stink, if you haven't been around new tires. I don’t want that in my building. I nixed that along with another company that fries seafood — fish sticks and that sort of stuff," Harrison said. "It's next to a residential neighborhood. If I lived there, I wouldn’t want that in my neighborhood unless I knew it wasn’t going to stink." 

Harrison also hired a wetlands engineer to determine where the wetlands are, and it turns out they had moved since the building was first constructed. Part of the back parking lot was paved over the area, which is now being turned into conservation land. The parking lot will be moved inward and the pavement torn up. Harrison said he will use gravel for the parking area moving forward so that rainwater can permeate it. 

Mary Markos may be contacted at 978-338-2660 or

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