BEVERLY – A first look at a developer's plans to build a six-story apartment building near the Beverly train depot did not receive a ringing endorsement Tuesday night.
Members of the Ward 2 Civic Association generally gave a thumbs-down to the presentation by Beverly Crossing, calling the planned building a "monolith" and "out of place" and lamenting the loss of the historic block that it will replace.
"We're talking about a beautiful square that's going to be gone and you're going to put up that monstrosity," member Mark White said.
Beverly Crossing is planning to knock down a block of buildings bordered by Rantoul Street, Railroad Avenue, Park Street and Pleasant Street, and construct a single six-story apartment building in their place. The block is part of a historic district that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and includes the Press Box and Casa de Lucca buildings, which are both former hotels.
Beverly Crossing President Chris Koeplin and architect Thad Siemasko showed images of the planned building to about 40 people at the Ward 2 Civic Association's meeting at the Beverly Public Library. Koeplin declined to release the images to The Salem News after the meeting, saying the design could change based on feedback from residents.
The building as presented would be mostly brick. It would have 114 apartments on the top five floors, with retail space on the first floor that could include a restaurant and possibly a small hotel. There would be an outdoor plaza that would include both private and public space. There would be two levels of parking underneath the building, with 116 spaces.
"It's not trying to be precisely historic, to be honest, but I wouldn't call it modern," Siemasko said. "It's transitional."
When the presentation was opened up for questions, association member Sean Cahill blasted Beverly Crossing for planning to knock down the buildings after collecting $2 million in state and federal historic rehabilitation tax credits for restoring another building across the street on Pleasant Street.
"How is that ethical?," Cahill said. "How is that even legal? You're going to level this block and put up a building that could be anywhere in the country."
Koeplin responded that the previous project was done by Windover, the predecessor company to Beverly Crossing. Koeplin said he worked for Windover but wasn't in a leadership position with the company.
"I don't know what led to those decisions at the time," Koeplin said.
Koeplin said it wasn't financially feasible for the company to restore the historic buildings on the block.
"It is all very expensive," he said. "Construction costs are up."
Matt Pujo, who has advocated for saving the buildings, said Beverly Crossing does not listen to the concerns of residents.
"You shove these plans down our throat whether we like it or not," he said. "Your company is going to wipe out a historic district."
John Hall, who owns a business in Ward 2, said he was concerned about the scale of the building. He said Windover, and now Beverly Crossing, continues to build six-story buildings along Rantoul Street and "the whole street is becoming a canyon."
Koeplin said the city changed the zoning years ago to allow for six-story buildings on the street.
"That's what the city voted for zoning," he said.
Ward 2 City Councilor Estelle Rand asked Koeplin what it would take to at least save the Casa de Lucca building, which is in better shape than the Press Box building. Koeplin said it would cost about $2.5 million and the loss of 16 units in the new building.
Koeplin said he hoped to go through the permitting process by the city this year and begin construction sometime next year. But he said would listen to residents' feedback and agreed to meet again with the Ward 2 association. The group voted to form an ad-hoc committee that would present its suggestions to Beverly Crossing.
"We think this is the right project for Beverly," Koeplin said at one point during the meeting. "I'm sorry you disagree."
Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or email@example.com.