Major Developments on the Horizon for Peabody Square

The city is moving forward with plans to redesign the intersection while private investment is being made in key properties that could significantly help revitalize the square.

The Second O'Shea Building at 9-13 Main St. was purchased for $1 million in August. Credit: Courtesy.
The Second O'Shea Building at 9-13 Main St. was purchased for $1 million in August. Credit: Courtesy.
[Editor's Note: This article has been updated to reflect a correction in the size of the building.]

Main Street has been reconfigured and beautified, Peabody Square is next, and the city may soon be getting a welcome boost from new commercial development right in the heart of the downtown.

Bandar Development out of Middleton recently purchased what is known as the Second O'Shea Building, a visual landmark downtown at 9-13 Main St. The sale price was $1 million. The three-story structure was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1905 and sits right in the square at the corner of Main and Foster streets.

According to records from the registry of deeds, the sale occurred Aug. 19 between Angela Karavolas, who was a trustee of the property, and 407 Squire Road, LLC (Bandar). The building is currently occupied by China Corner, a furniture store, barber shop and some offices, but part of it is vacant.

Dan Bandar, who runs the firm with his brother Hany, isn't publicly committing to any one plan for the building at present, but instead has a number of options and plans for the property, according to a report by the Salem News.

Bandar told the paper they're looking at various options and multiple plans to determine what's feasible, including keeping the existing tenants or converting the building into another use.

Those discussions are also keeping the city closely in the loop -- a $250,000 loan from the city (from federal urban development grant money) did help finance the sale. Bandar even told the Salem News it was Mayor Ted Bettencourt who inspired them to invest in the downtown.

"He's got some ambitious plans," Bettencourt told Peabody Patch, adding that he'll be meeting again with Bandar later this month.

Bettencourt highlighted this purchase and the acquisition of the building next-door by another developer in his recent State of the Region address as evidence that private investors are taking notice of the city's efforts to revitalize the downtown.

The other project is at 11 Main St., which houses Congressman John Tierney's district office with two vacant floors above. Norman Lee received approval from the City Council earlier this year to convert the upper floors into 10 residential apartments -- all told the project would cost $1.25 million.

Bettencourt said the O'Shea project in particular can play a significant role in stimulating redevelopment and further investment in the area.

Bettencourt likewise hasn't seen any definite plans for the property, but said Bandar will have to appear before the City Council at some point in addition to securing building permits.

Parking will definitely be an issue, he confirmed. There is limited space on the street and behind the building, and metered spots are available directly across the street at the municipal parking lot on Foster Street, although several of those spots are already permitted spaces.

The property is in a Central Business zoning district, which allows for restaurants, retail stores, banks, offices and similar uses by right and residential apartments by special permit. Other commercial uses, such as hotels, bakeries or package stores would also require a special permit.

Bettencourt noted this investment and future developments over the next year or two could help move forward on putting a mixed-use municipal parking garage downtown.

That project, which was a campaign point two years ago, is aimed at resolving some longstanding parking challenges and bolstering economic development.

Bettencourt's vision is for a garage with offices, shops or restaurants above it, similar to projects underway in Salem and Beverly. Those projects were also financed heavily with state transportation money.

A garage could be built at the Mill Street parking lot the city purchased last year from the MBTA or at the Foster Street lot right off the square -- both locations are viable sites, said Bettencourt. He added that the city will be seeking state transportation funds, grants and other available monies.

The city also has a more favorable position now for economic development funding due to its status as a Gateway City.

As for the square itself, the city is now pursuing a $2.9 million state grant to majorly overhaul the intersection, according to Bettencourt. The city should learn in the coming weeks if that funding will be approved.
Ted Brown October 17, 2013 at 04:57 AM
The traffic that bottlenecks the downtown area is still a concern. I would ask city officials to include Central Street (up to Wilson Sq. ) in a plan for better traffic flow to and from downtown. I wonder if there is a way to create a traffic circle at Central and Tremont to regulate traffic flow coming to and from the Square. Better signage, maybe, to inform drivers of other options in getting to Salem and beyond. Or, perhaps, does the answer lie in something such as adjusting the traffic light pattern? City officials cannot expect to attract people to dontown businesses when they are scared off by the wait and hassle that traffic brings.
Saber Walsh October 17, 2013 at 10:43 AM
Ted is spot on -- we just had a major project limit downtown traffic flow. Why try to build up ways to get people downtown? What are they going to buy -- a bong and some club wear? The only other option would be making Main St a one way to go back to two-lane flow, with Walnut Street being the "return street" to handle the flow... How about corollary areas like Walnut Street? Our #1 goal should be jobs. So no matter what, if we can make the downtown "less Lawrence and Lynn," bring in JOBS JOBS JOBS, and enhance public safety in that area so that people feel safe when the sun goes down, then we have a true win.
Bjean October 17, 2013 at 03:34 PM
Downtown Peabody is an area I avoid like the plague. There is nothing of any value there. Its a headache traffic-wise, I wouldnt want to bring my kids down there for any reason. Its not a "family friendly" area to say the least. Needs a lot more work!!
Brian Dapice October 17, 2013 at 07:47 PM
I sold both of these buildings. O'Shea II is only three stories and the Dollar Store closed a year ago, replaced by a furniture store. And what a piss-poor attitude Saber Walsh has regarding the downtown area and what type of shopping people can do. You're exactly the critic we need! All class... Regarding the traffic pattern. Part of my job is to evaluate economics and infrastructure. It's something you'll all have to get used to but one lane is much safer for crossing and with Lowell Street being one lane and Boston Street in Salem being one lane it makes perfect sense to maintain the consistency. With respect to the future of Peabody Square. It would be a mecca improvement to bring a T station into town. The Congressman tried to do this many years ago and it was laughed at. A T station would indeed improve the demographics, bring in higher-end tenants to the retail market and improve the cities alternative tax revenue. The end result would be similar to what the Mayor of Salem was able to do. I think Mayor Bettencourt is more than one-track for having a vision for Peabody.
Johnny D October 17, 2013 at 09:10 PM
The one-lane thing is an embarrassment. It keeps more people away from downtown than anything else. What good is a "pedestrian friendly" downtown when no one dares to venture down there? You can't go by car, since the traffic is so awful... and who the heck would want to walk around in that part of the city??? We need to realize that we are not, don't want to be, and never will be, downtown Salem. You must not be from Peabody because the last thing the residents of this city want is a T-Station. That would be a nightmare. This whole thing was a waste of taxpayer money. You want to fix Peabody, start investing in the schools not the hopeless downtown project. Makes me wonder who was paid off, and by whom, to create this mess.
John Castelluccio (Editor) October 18, 2013 at 04:08 PM
Brian, thanks for the note. The article has been updated to reflect those corrections.
Brian Dapice October 18, 2013 at 08:42 PM
You can't start with schools when the demographics don't show positive change. The success of every community starts with two things (A) tax income and (B) local shopping. That's why towns like Wenham have such a high tax base, because there is no local retail market. No I am not from Peabody, I am from Danvers. But it doesn't take a economics major to realize downtown Peabody is in need of an entire over-haul economically. With the exception of Brodie's and Petrillo's where is another really good place to eat? You have some nicer grab & go establishments like Santoro's but there is not many choices. Visit the other three core North Shore communities -- Salem, Beverly & Danvers. In all three markets you have a plethora of finer establishments, too too many to list here online. Peabody is in the midst of a very exciting transformation and at some point everyone will realize less traffic flow when commuters actually stop in your town versus drive through it. The development on the corner of Foster & Main is the first of many exciting changes. How many other downtowns do you know of have a two-lane each way main street? Huh?? None. I work in virtually every downtown north of Boston and the lower half of Middlesex County into the downtown area. Absolutely positively nobody I can think of has a two-lane each way downtown. You and everyone that thinks differently simply isn't educated enough to look at the big picture. And a commuter rail or blue line would be a TREMENDOUS improvement both demographically and economically to the city. Yes, you are right. The Peabody residents don't want it. They don't want it because they simply haven't been educated as to how much it will lower their taxes, bring in an amazing amount of meals & sales tax revenue and increase the average household income with commuter residents. Open up the most recent census for Salem and look at the downtown Ward. Take a look...
Johnny D October 18, 2013 at 08:50 PM
Thank you for your very obviously unbiased opinion Brian. You keep spewing your propaganda...and I, along with the other RESIDENTS of Peabody, will continue to avoid the downtown area. If you think that a T station has a snowballs chance of happening here you are out of your mind...we will make sure that garbage stays out of our city. WE DON"T WANT TO BE DOWNTOWN SALEM! Does the blue line stop in your city, Brian?
Johnny D October 18, 2013 at 09:09 PM
You know what Brian, I am not letting you off that easy. You keep using Salem as the basis for many of your claims. You are downright wrong. Salem has the "bustling" downtown that you claim is the key to a successful community. Who has lower property taxes, Peabody or Salem? Who has higher property values, Peabody or Salem? Who has a better school system, Peabody or Salem? Let me save you the research...PEABODY wins on all of the above categories. We have no desire to be a business hub of the Northshore. How often do you go out to eat in Middletown, Topsfield or Boxford? Probably not a regular, huh? But guess what, their property values are THROUGH THE ROOF compared to Salem, Peabody and Danvers...due in large part to their exceptional school system. IT STARTS WITH THE SCHOOL SYSTEM. Your selfish motives are very transparent...you come off as another greedy businessman trying to line his pockets while spewing false promises. I bet you avoid downtown like the plague too...but you would never tell us that because you want us to "buy in" to your ridiculous theories. Check your rhetoric at the town line, Mr. Dapice.
Brian Dapice October 18, 2013 at 10:16 PM
Johnny you are generalizing. I think I mentioned the ward specifically within the downtown area, which I hope you would recognize is the subject of this thread. When you generalize the way you just did you just added areas such as West Peabody to the mix. But you weren't fair to yourself because if you want to look at the community as a whole, you better do so with the other two communities I referenced, Danvers & Beverly. Compare the Woodvale & Prep areas to the best areas of Peabody... I didn't think you could. Compare Beverly Cove, Centerville, PC & even North Beverly to the best areas of Peabody... I didn't think you could. Your not arguing with a novice at demographics. Smarten up. Stick with the topic. The topic was the downtown economic development of Peabody. The school system seems to be a topic you want very much to add. Create a different thread for your personal agenda. I spend most all of the business days in local shops for lunch. I've done the leasing for more establishments in the area than you could count. Yes, Middleton (not as much as other communities), Topsfield, Boxford and most other area towns with the exception of Rowley. I mentioned Wenham earlier but since you need to be hammered with factual data look at Topsfield & Boxford's taxes. Two more communities with less than average local retail markets = higher taxes. You are just supporting my point. Speak your dreams of better school support in the appropriate thread and if you have any positive insight as to how to better support the downtown marketplace, and not just in Peabody I may add, this is the right thread. I don't have a personal agenda regarding a T station in town, I simply think it would be the single best boost your community deserves. Perhaps on the land occupied by that mecca of a bowling alley on Foster Street (next to the, cough, railroad tracks).
Brian Dapice October 18, 2013 at 10:22 PM
And I enjoyed how you classified commuters as "we will make sure that garbage stays out of our city". Very classy of you to think that way of a man/woman fresh out of college still paying their student loans degree in-hand trying to make it in the entry level at that Boston firm or at that large bank or that talented artist etc etc. "we will make sure that garbage stays out of our city" is probably the most stuck up prick comment someone could make about someone. Your an idiot...
Johnny D October 19, 2013 at 08:22 AM
Wrong again, Mr. Dapice. "We will make sure that garbage stays out of our city" was referring to the actual trains, no the people riding them. You are sensationalizing to win the argument and make your point. Curious that you didn't comment on this point: "Your selfish motives are very transparent...you come off as another greedy businessman trying to line his pockets while spewing false promises." And, by the way, it's "you're an idiot," maybe someone would have benefited from a better school system...
Kathleen October 19, 2013 at 05:52 PM
I don't always agree with Johnny D's post, but in this case I have to say he is spot on. The last thing that downtown Peabody needs is to have a train station in the middle of it, especially an extension of the Blue Line. Have you taken a ride on the Blue Line lately Brian and seen some of the derelicts that ride it every day? Just what the downtown area needs! What are they going to make the trip for? To visit the dollar store or a check cashing place? Take a look at any town or city that has the T running through it and look at what happens to property values. They plummet...The commuter rail is a different story. It is used more by professionals who are willing & able to spend the $14 bucks a day it costs to get into downtown Boston. The city of Peabody has a huge identity crisis. You have beautiful homes in West and South Peabody but the downtown looks like downtown Lynn. The courthouse is a big negative. It is probably the ugliest building ever built and it takes up the entire square and attracts nothing but a bad element. If the city really wants to spruce up the downtown and make it a family friendly destination, that's the first thing that they should get rid of down there. Johnny D has a point about the schools. Improving the schools would attract more families to Peabody who would pay more taxes which could be used to fix up the downtown area. It's all related. Instead Peabody has now been named as a Gateway City and in my opinion there is nothing positive to be gained by this designation. A gateway city traditionally has been defined as an airport or seaport that serves as the entry point to a country by being the primary arrival and departure point. This is hardly the case for Peabody. We now fall into the MA definition of a Gateway city which Under the General Laws, gateway cities have a population between 35,000 and 250,000, with an average household income below the state average and an average educational attainment rate (Bachelor's or above) below the state average. Sorry but I don't want Peabody to be in this company...Personally I would rather Peabody be in the company of the neighboring towns that Johnny D mentioned, Topsfield, Middleton, Wenham, and Boxford.
Saber Walsh October 21, 2013 at 10:28 AM
Mr. Dapice, I respectfully am calling out your business interest as a real estate agent as the reason why you are raining criticism back on the people who have lived in PEABODY all their lives, and don't look at the city as business development from their office at Cummings Center in Beverly. The people who live here know what the square WAS like (unlike Danvers Square, which hasnt' changed much). The people who live here know what it would feel like to have Main Street back, and yet we seem to have all sorts of experts and those with financial interests with the time to tell us what we need (and that, if we voice our opinions, however direct they might be, that we just have "piss poor attitudes" and don't understand how wonderful the plans might be of the high and mighty in the Commercial Property Office of Keller Williams). So call me and the other people who love their city, but expect MORE from developers, "piss poor," but condescending real estate sales people are just not on the top of my 'most respected opinion leaders" list.
Brian Dapice October 26, 2013 at 10:53 AM
Kathleen you are correct but you cannot improve schools until the demographics show demand. Peabody is below grade compared to it's surrounding communities in this area, largely because the downtown area is mostly rentals and not owner-occupied. While I think "surrounding communities" might not be fair to Peabody for comparison sakes because you abut Lynnfield & Danvers but thats how demographic studies are conducted nationwide. We only have two variables, the miles ring and drive time. While I respect your goals of one day comparing Peabody to Topsfield, Middleton, Wenham, and Boxford that will absolutely positively never ever happen. Those communities are towns where Peabody is a city. Salem & Beverly unfortunately are your core comparisons. One could argue Lynn but I consider Lynn a metropolitan community and compare them to Revere & Malden and such. The one community you could achieve to compare yourself to would be Danvers. While Danvers technically is still a town, that can/will soon change with the next senses, especially if they didn't mis-report certain figures that keep them in the town status. Peabody has a much larger downtown area and with that comes a lot more industrial type buildings which would need to be re-zoned to residential. However this would greatly improve the cities average household income & tax base for which the city could use for, cough, the school system.
Brian Dapice October 26, 2013 at 11:00 AM
And Johnny D, good catch on the "you're". I did notice that after I posted but didn't think you were worth the effort to change it. Or was it I didn't think you were educated enough to catch it yourself... Your shift from the original post regarding the economic growth of the downtown to your personal agenda regarding the schools didn't really warrant the investment in time.
Johnny D October 26, 2013 at 12:28 PM
Go away Brian. This article should not serve to pursue YOUR personal agenda either...being a commercial real estate agent and seeing downtown Peabody as a potential goldmine. Sorry, you won't be putting your kids through college on the backs of Peabody residents. Take your condescending, holier-than-thou, pretentious attitude elsewhere. You sound like a spoiled little brat that wants things "his way" or else...why don't you stomp your feet, take your ball, and go home. You are not worth my time. I am verry impressed that you are a real estate agent Brian...so much so that I think I may take the weekend class and exam and join the force by next week. Greedy businessmen like you are a dime a dozen. I could throw a dart at the phone book and find someone with the economics knowledge you CLAIM to possess. Find someone else to talk down to, pal....we are not buying your act here.
John Castelluccio (Editor) October 26, 2013 at 05:17 PM
Brian, If Danvers were to become a city, it would have to adopt a city charter and city form of government. It has little to do with reporting census figures and nearly all to do with the will of the electorate.
Johnny D October 26, 2013 at 07:05 PM
Actually John, if you read Brian's post carefully you would notice that he believes that Danvers can/will become a city as a result of the "next senses." Must be a fancy real estate term that us uneducated laymen wouldn't understand.
Chriss Markey January 06, 2014 at 05:45 AM
Brian Dapice - you said: "You and everyone that thinks differently simply isn't educated enough ... " Anyone with any intelligence knows when someone makes such a self-serving, arrogant comment as that - that someone is a muttonhead. (And, sir, you are proving education and intelligence are not the same thing, and an education does not equate to intelligence.)


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