By Paul Leighton
---- — BEVERLY — A major development firm based in the town of Manchester says it is reconsidering the demolition of two historic buildings near the Beverly depot after the state warned that their destruction could cost the company $1.1 million in tax credits on another project.
In a letter to the Massachusetts Historical Commission, Windover Development President Lee Dellicker said the company is “revisiting the feasibility of retaining and rehabilitating” the former Hotel Trafton on Park Street and the former Cushing Carriage Building on Rantoul Street.
Windover’s change of heart came after the commission’s executive director, Brona Simon, wrote a letter in February warning that the Beverly Depot-Odell Park Historic District would no longer be eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places if the buildings are demolished.
“It is the opinion of the (Massachusetts Historical Commission) that both the Hotel Trafton and the Cushing Carriage House are significant contributing elements of the district,” Simon wrote.
Windover has nominated the district for inclusion in the national register in order to be eligible for $1.1 million in historic rehabilitation tax credits for its renovation of another building, the former J.P. Friend & Company Box Factory on Pleasant Street.
But Windover, which has built the new BankGloucester on Main Street in that city, the Depot Square condos in Beverly, and many buildings at Endicott and Montserrat colleges, was seeking the historic designation at the same time it was planning to demolish the two other buildings, drawing the ire of local preservationists.
In an interview, Dellicker said he appreciated the concerns of the state commission and others who want to save the buildings, in particular the former Hotel Trafton.
“It is in tough shape, and it may not be economically feasible to save,” he said. “But we will look at every possible way that it might be saved and incorporated into a project.”
The Massachusetts Historical Commission was scheduled to vote on the Beverly Depot-Odell Park district at its meeting last month. But the commission delayed its vote after a last-minute objection by the New England Regional Council of Carpenters, a union of 22,000 carpenters and other workers.
The union has been battling Windover over the company’s use of out-of-state workers on its projects. Steve Falvey, a union representative, said Windover should not benefit from state tax breaks while using workers from outside of Massachusetts.
“We think subsidizing what they do and the way they do it is wrong for Beverly and wrong for Massachusetts taxpayers,” Falvey said. “We don’t think (Windover CEO) Steve Dodge deserves his own historic district.”
Dellicker said there is no law against using out-of-state workers.
“We put these projects out to bid to get the best price for taxpayers,” he said. “They have to be registered in Massachusetts, and they have to play by the rules.”
By getting the area around the depot listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Windover would be eligible for state and federal historic preservation tax credits for its recently completed project at 60 Pleasant St., where the company renovated a former box factory into housing for homeless military veterans.
The tax credits would be in the amount of $1.1 million, according to the Massachusetts Historical Commission. That would be in addition to $2.7 million in state and federal housing subsidies and tax credits Windover was awarded last year. The estimated total cost of the project is $7.4 million.
At the same time, the area’s inclusion on the national register would not prevent the company from knocking down the Trafton and Cushing buildings. The Hotel Trafton, at 9 Park St., was most recently used as a rooming house for veterans and also housed the Press Box barroom for a number of years. Cushing’s Carriage, at 142 Rantoul St., is still being used as an office for Sullivan Chiropractic.
Windover wants to knock down both buildings and construct a building with about 75 apartments, with retail space on the first floor and parking under the building. The Beverly Historical Commission imposed a one-year delay on their demolition in January, but Windover is free to knock them down when the term expires.
Beverly resident Matt Pujo, who produced a video about the Hotel Trafton called “No Country For Old Buildings,” said he hopes this latest news means the building will be spared.
The building opened in 1886 as a railroad hotel across from the train depot.
“This building is the last of its kind in the area,” Pujo said. “If a tourist gets off in Beverly and sees a restored railroad hotel instead of another condominium building, that says something about what we are in Beverly.”
Pujo said Windover should work with other people in the community to come up with a creative and economical way to save the Trafton.
“Let’s all work together in the spirit of encouragement instead of just saying, ‘No development,’” he said.
Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or email@example.com.