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Historic Beverly building could be incorporated into Walgreens development

Posted by Justin Rice  January 27, 2012 10:10 AM

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The owners of a building constructed at the corner of Dodge and Conant streets around 1715 said they will not demolish the most historic part of the structure in order to develop a Walgreens on the property.

Until recently, Jeff Rhuda of Symes Associates, which manages the property, maintained that the building at 48 Dodge St. was "functionally obsolete" and had to be torn down to make way for the drug store.

Rhuda is now saying that they are working to incorporate the original footprint of the building -- a 1,750 to 1,800 square feet house -- into the redevelopment project as office space to be leased out separate from the drug store. He said they are still going to tear down an L-shaped addition that was added onto the original home around 1800.

"We're not saving the whole thing, we're saving 60 to 70 percent of it," Rhuda said during a telephone interview this morning.

The decision comes after more than 100 angry residents attended a Planning Board Meeting to protest the demolition last week.

Rhuda said the city's Design Review Board, Historic Commission, Planning Board and Walgreens officials themselves all asked them to take a look at redesigning the building without tearing down the original home.

Saving part of the existing structure means that the development will have about four or five less parking spaces, Rhuda said. The Planning Board will still have to issue a permit to allow them to develop the property with less than the 120 parking spaces required by the city.

"We don't know if that it works yet," Rhuda said of the plans. "We're conceptual at this point. We're moving into fully engineered plan that is in process now. We believe it will work. Obviously the building is going to take up a few parking spaces so the [Planning] Board has to look at that."
Beverly's Historic District Commission, which passed a one-year demolition delay last May in hopes of convincing the owners to work toward preservation, has argued that other recent developments in the area have successfully incorporated old buildings. They also say the Dodge Street building is one of the few houses that are left from the city's first period of settlement.

"I'm very pleased," Historic Commission Chairman William Finch said in a telephone interview this morning. "I would prefer to keep the addition as well but I'm happy to save the main part. That's the most visible from the street.

"I see it as a compromise. It's a lot better than removing the building, tearing it down. It does define the corner so I'm happy with that. It still has to go through planning board.  It's not over yet. I'm very happy we reached some accommodations that seems to be positive."

Rhuda said the Planning Board will take up the issue at its Feb. 21 meeting and the Design Review Board will take it up after that. He said he hopes to have a final decision from the city this spring.

Rhuda said Walgreens is likely to occupy the space for 25 to 50 years.

"I don't know if I'd call it an olive branch," he said. "Walgreens is a pretty community oriented company and they asked us to take a look at the redesign. They are going to be a 25 to 50 year tenant. From our perspective as owners it's OK with us. If something else is not going in there we're OK with it.

"Walgreens is willing to live with it. If it was another retail building we are not going to do it."

Justin A. Rice can be reached at

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