Back Shore parcels sell for $7.5M

DESI SMITH/File photo/Melanson Development, based in Woburn, has acquired the former Ocean View Inn property, at 161, 165 and 171 Atlantic Road, for $7.5 million. The company plan to pursue a housing development, and not another inn or hotel.

A longstanding Back Shore inn property that’s been dormant for five years has a new owner who wants to develop a housing complex on the more than eight-acre site.

Bryan Melanson, president and CEO of Melanson Development based in Woburn, has acquired the former Ocean View Inn property for $7.5 million, taking over the three parcels that cover 161, 165 and 171 Atlantic Road and end at High Popples Road. Melanson closed on the deal with the most recent owner — OVL LLC, an affiliate of the Winchester-based Waterfield Design Group headed by Craig Miller — on Thursday, according to the Southern Essex Registry of Deeds.

The change comes two years after Miller’s group had sought to convert the inn into a housing complex and submitted plans for a mix of condominiums, duplexes and a single-family home totaling 28 units. But Miller withdrew those plans in the face of early neighborhood opposition and questions over construction in a Federal Emergency Management Agency flood zone. The OVL group had bought the property for $5.1 million after the longtime owners, the Bershad family, abruptly shut down the inn in the face of a December 2013 foreclosure, stranding a number of couples who had booked and made deposits on weddings planned for the property.

Melanson said his company would be pursuing a housing development, not a reincarnated inn or hotel complex. He said he has not yet firmed up any plans for the property regarding a number of units, and was to meet with architects regarding its potential Friday. 

“It is just a beautiful spot, and you’re not going to find that sized property on the Atlantic Ocean in too many places,” Melanson said in a phone interview. “We’re hopeful we can do something special for such a special spot, but we want to talk to the neighbors, talk to the city and get their input as well.”

He said he hopes to develop and submit plans to the city within the next several weeks.

Buyer: Clock is ticking

“I bought the property, it was very expensive, and the clock’s ticking on me, so we need to get going in some fashion,” he said. “It won’t be next month, but it may be soon after that. We may also try to do something in phases, maybe start but renovating one of the buildings, and going from there.

“But it really is too early to talk yet,” he added. “Hopefully, we can do something that works for us that the neighbors don’t view as overly aggressive — something that’s just a nice scenario and can be a win-win for everybody.”

The property includes the two main buildings that long housed guest rooms and a banquet hall, along with three single-story buildings housing number of motel rooms.

The OVL project filed in 2016 called for five condos each in the two main structures, a single-family home at the back of the property, eight more condo units where the crumbling motel buildings still stand, and eight duplex units in four buildings that were to be built toward the front of the site.

“The thought at the time was it just had too much density,” Atlantic Road resident Ronn Garry said of the OVL project. “I’m not at all opposed to housing, as long as it’s a reasonable density, but that was going to be just too much.”

Garry said Friday he looks forward to seeing what type of plans Melanson proposes, as does neighbor Mark Poulin of High Popples Road, whose property abuts the Ocean View site on two sides.

Neighbors: ‘Appropriate density’

Poulin said he and his wife had been out for a walk along Atlantic Road and happened to run into a man named “Bryan” who said he was scouting out the Ocean View site a few months ago. Melanson confirmed he and others with his company had visited the site a number of times leading up to Thursday’s closing. Poulin said he hadn’t heard anything or thought much about the encounter since, but added that he sees at least one benefit to the sale already.

“I would have to say the biggest positive out of this is right now is that the property is no longer going to be a vacant East Gloucester dog park —among other things,” he said. He said the site has been frequented over the last two years by the homeless and squatters, and officers have made several visits to the property, Police Department logs have indicated.

“I don’t believe hardly anyone up here would object to a responsible development with appropriate density that would blend in with our neighborhood,” he said. “We’ve all seen (redevelopment) plans before, and the difference the last time was in the large density. But I think a lot of us would support something that’s more responsible and appropriate.”

The Thursday deal also reaped a benefit for the state through the Southern Essex Registry of Deeds. The sale yielded excise taxes of $34,200, based on the state’s rate of $4.56 per $1,000 on any purchase of property valued at more than $100, according to Nancy Fitzgerald Doherty, the registry’s customer service manager.

The 7.5-acre lot at 171 Atlantic that includes the main inn buildings is assessed at $4.8 million, and the three properties are valued at $6.6 million, city records show. 

Ray Lamont can be reached at 978-675-2705, or rlamont@gloucestertimes.com.