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PEABODY — The plan for a Peabody Square hotel, announced with much fanfare at the end of 2013, has been dropped.
The O’Shea building, a landmark property at the corner of Foster and Main streets, announced by Mayor Ted Bettencourt as the site of a “boutique hotel,” won’t be accepting reservations. While the building will still be renovated by Bandar Development and Builders of Middleton, the plan to locate hotel rooms on the upper floors has been abandoned.
”They came back and told me they wanted to go in a different direction,” the mayor said. “They wanted a residential component and not the hotel.”
Developer Dan Bandar said the “configuration” of the historic O’Shea building limits what they will be able to do in transforming it into a hotel.
”We cannot configure it the way we want to,” he said.
Instead, the company’s website now indicates those spaces will become apartments. A gym is still slated for the top floor, and a high-end restaurant is being sought for the bottom floor, with a martini bar in the basement.
Locating a hotel in or near the square remains a key goal for the mayor, and Bandar continues to be involved in that process.
”We still think the downtown is the perfect location for a hotel,” he said, expressing excitement over a plan to combine dining, entertainment and living spaces. “There’ll be so many options there. ... It’s going to be the epicenter of the North Shore.”
For his part, Bettencourt said, “I think we need some nightlife downtown. And I still like the idea of a hotel downtown and hope we can find a place for it.” A site with available parking is a priority.
A Peabody Square hotel is seen as desirable for visitors interacting with downtown businesses, or with companies at Centennial Park or with City Hall. Additionally, the clientele could include tourists looking to avoid the bustle of Salem, or parents or would-be students visiting nearby colleges such as Salem State University in Salem, Endicott College in Beverly, or Gordon College in Wenham.
Bandar is still considering construction of a multistory building, also on Foster Street, at the site of the municipal parking lot, directly across from the O’Shea building. Dubbed 0 Foster Street, it would provide retail shops elevated above ground level, with parking at ground level and apartments plus parking on the upper floors. It’s an area that has been known to flood, but Bandar expressed satisfaction with the efforts at flood mitigation in recent years.
A general redesign of the square is also a component of this effort, with the towering Civil War monument expected to be moved over to a spot in front of the district court. All these projects have involved input from the city. Bandar’s $1 million purchase of the O’Shea building was financed in part with the city’s help in getting the developer a $250,000 loan through a federal Urban Development Action Grant.
Downtown Peabody is undergoing a transformation, in any case. That includes developer Norman Lee’s purchase of the many properties previously held by Gordon Realty. Making downtown Peabody a place to go has been a top priority for Bettencourt’s administration. It’s a process, he says, that might take as long as 10 years.
”We’re laying the groundwork for a bright future for the downtown,” said the mayor. “But there’s still a lot of work to be done.”