Developer Pushes Ahead With Plans for Peabody Hotel

The new boutique hotel and restaurant slated for Peabody Square will be ready to open in 18 months if all goes according to plan.

Construction at the O'Shea Building at 9 Main St. may begin in a few weeks.
Construction at the O'Shea Building at 9 Main St. may begin in a few weeks.
There are no concrete plans yet for a parking garage, according to city officials, and no liquor license available now, but that's not stopping a local developer from pushing forward to build a hotel in Peabody Square.

Dan Bandar hopes to open a new boutique hotel and high-end restaurant in the O'Shea Building at 9 Main St. in the next 18 months. The facade of the historic building will remain the same, but the interior will be totally renovated for a restaurant and conference rooms on the ground floor with 64 luxury hotel rooms on the two floors above.

Bandar tells the Salem News in a recent interview that his firm, Bandar Development & Builders, is currently working with the city to try to find new homes for the three businesses occupying the bottom floor of the building and hopes to begin construction in the next few weeks.

He even said he'd like to carve out space for George's Barbershoppe, which is run by David Serpa, in the new hotel. The ground floor is also currently home to China Corner and Peabody Home Decor.

Bandar told the Salem News they're trying to make the move as “painless and as sensitive as possible” to avoid hurting the local businesses. He described all three as “wonderful tenants.”

In an earlier interview with Peabody Patch, Bandar indicated he had some other projects in mind for Peabody, and one of them apparently is a companion development to the Peabody Essex Hotel -- a three-story condo building with a parking garage and cafe on the bottom floor.

MTMA Architects, the Cambridge firm Bandar retained for the hotel, shows early renderings of both the hotel and a mixed-use project on its website. The early plans include up to 120 parking spaces (public and private), a restaurant with outdoor seating in a garden-style plaza and 60 condos on the top two floors.

The location for this project, estimated at a $10 million investment, would be the present site of the Foster Street municipal parking lot, which is across the street from the O'Shea Building.

Mayor Ted Bettencourt is frank about his intention to eventually bring a mixed-use parking garage to the downtown, hotel or not, but says there are no definite plans nor commitments yet. He said the proposal for the Foster Street lot was presented by Bandar unsolicited. It's an option for the city to consider.

Bettencourt said the city is considering potential sites for that type of development, including the Foster Street lot and the Mill Street parking lot, which the city purchased from the MBTA in 2012.

He added that parking garages are expensive projects -- the garage under construction in Beverly costs about $34 million -- and the city will need a mix of financing, possibly a public and private investment, to build one.

While Bandar would need about 100 parking spots for the hotel development, he is currently planning to locate them off-site and run a combination of valet and shuttle service, which would also incorporate regular trips to Salem State University, for instance, and nearby destinations.

As for the liquor license, Bandar and a handful of other applicants vied for the city's one available all-alcohol restaurant license back in December. The Licensing Board, however, granted the license to the proprietors of a new pub slated to open in March at the empty Fire Bull spot.

Board Chairman Minas Dakos told Peabody Patch the main reason the board didn't go with Bandar was because the restaurant wouldn't likely open for another year at least. In contrast, Mike & Lil's Black Sheep Pub was eyeing St. Patrick's Day.

"If it [the hotel] were happening sooner, you'd almost have to go with it," said Dakos. "Hopefully the legislature will create those new licenses."

He was referring to the home rule petition the city is sending to state lawmakers to create more licenses by special legislation.

Bettencourt received approval from the City Council earlier in December to submit the petition, which seeks 10 new liquor licenses for Peabody, ideally split between the mall and the downtown.

Bettencourt said that proposal is still being fine tuned before it's sent to legislators, but he is still hopeful of having a decision by the time the hotel is ready to open.

"In no way will the lack of a liquor license slow this down," he said of the project, as far as the city is concerned.

"The hotel is a game-changing proposal," he said. "My hope is to change the whole landscape of the downtown."

One other task left for Bandar is also to obtain the blessing of the City Council. A restaurant is allowed by right under the current zoning for the property, but Bandar needs a special permit from the council in order to convert the building into a hotel.

The Middleton firm first purchased the Second O'Shea Building at 9-13 Main St., a visual landmark downtown, this past summer for $1 million.
Paul K Ryan January 28, 2014 at 08:30 PM
George Peabody Ambassador Hotel has a nice ring to it….


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