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2003 Danvers State Hospital Chronicles

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10-27-03 The Danvers Preservation Commission has until Dec. 7 to rule on a developer's request to demolish 45 buildings on the Danvers State Hospital grounds, even if it doesn't want to.

That's the deadline for the commission to order a six-month delay on the demolition of any structure at the site it deems historically significant. But, for a while, commission members thought they might win a longer reprieve by putting off a ruling on the request, submitted Oct. 6, by AvalonBay Communities.

That's because Danvers Building Inspector Peter Bryson didn't think his office had the authority to issue permits for the Danvers State Hospital, which, like all state property, is beyond the bounds of most local bylaws.

Given Bryson's position, Preservation Commission members wondered if they, similarly didn't have the right, and conversely the obligation, to rule on the request until the property changed hands.

But, on Thursday, Oct. 23, the state sent a letter authorizing Avalon to act as its agent in requesting demolition of the buildings. The preservationists normally have 45 days to rule on a request submitted to the building inspector. The state's letter set this clock ticking, Town Planner Evan Belansky said.

Kathryn Morano, chairman of the commission, and other preservationists have vehemently opposed Avalon's plans to demolish most of the hospital buildings, including two-thirds of the gothic-style Kirkbride building. Avalon intends to renovate the rest for apartments and to erect more than a dozen apartment buildings around the remainder of the Kirkbride.

In April, Avalon signed onto an $18.1 million purchase agreement with the state Division of Capital Asset Management (DCAM), adopting the building plans of a previous developer that walked away from the project late last year.

Avalon was set to come before the Preservation Commission this Wednesday, but Commission Chairwoman Kathryn Morano was unable to attend due to a back injury, and the meeting has been rescheduled for Nov. 12.

Reached Tuesday, Morano said her committee would continue fighting for preservation of more of the 129-year-old Kirkbride, even if she didn't hold out much hope of eventual success. Avalon is set in its plans and has the backing of the state and town management, she said. In any event, her commission can only order a six-month delay of demolition permits, she said.

"It's like this formality that they have to go through that is totally meaningless to them," Morano said.

Avalon doesn't plan to demolish any buildings on the site until next fall, when it expects to take possession of the hospital property. Then it will move very quickly to take down the structures, in part to protect the portion of the Kirkbride they intend to renovate from another harsh winter, Avalon Vice President Scott Dale said.

Under Avalon's plans, the Kirkbride will be the anchor and signature building for its new apartment complex, Dale said.

10-8-03 AvalonBay Communities requested town permission this week to take down 45 buildings and structures, including the better part of the landmark Kirkbride building, at the site of the former Danvers State Hospital.

In April, Avalon signed an $18.1 million agreement to buy the available 75 acres of the old hospital property. The company's master plan calls for the construction of 526 apartments, roughly 100 of which would be placed in a renovated, central one-third of the Kirkbride building. The rest of the apartments would be placed in 17 apartment buildings erected around the Kirkbride atop Hawthorn Hill. Another 100,000 square feet of commercial buildings would be constructed in the lowlands portion of the property.

The demolition request, dated Oct. 6, was received at Town Hall Tuesday, Oct. 7.

To knock down portions of the Kirkbride and most of the other buildings - including staff houses, patient dormitories, chapels and utility buildings - Avalon's application must pass through the Preservation Commission, the members of which have this week promised stiff resistance to Avalon's plans.

In June, they enjoyed an unusually amicable first, face-to-face meeting with the developers, even though the developers indicated they would knock down the better part of what preservationists generally agree is a very historically significant building in town.

This week the good relations of June seem to have mostly drained away.

Preservation Commission Chairwoman Kathryn Morano said Avalon representatives disagreed with just about everything she had to tell them in a follow-up meeting on Sept. 25. Company representatives strongly argued which buildings the commission had authority over, she said.

Under Danvers bylaws, the Preservation Commission can order a six-month delay on the demolition of any structure built before 1915 which it deems historically significant. Members of the commission also argue that all the buildings on the site of the former state hospital come under their province, even those built after 1915.

The whole site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, which means even the structures constructed after 1915 can be ruled historically significant, Morano said.

The individual heading up the reconstruction effort, Avalon's senior director of development, Scott Dale, did not return a phone call placed Wednesday morning prior to press time.

In interviews last week and this week, members of the commission promised to hold up Archstone's demolition plans as long as possible.

While Avalon has almost certainly planned for the commission to use it's power to delay construction by six months, the commission may be able to drag things out quite a bit longer than that, Preservation Commission member John Archer said in an interview this week.

"That can be delayed more and more, and time is money to these big corporations," Archer said. "It's not that the Preservation Commission doesn't want that property developed. It's going to be, and we know that. It's just how that is going to happen."

Preservationists are pursing several options to push for more preservation at the site. Archer and others continue to speak with senior officials at the Massachusetts governor's office in a bid to leverage support. They are also considering a legal challenge in land court, Archer said.

"If we get a ruling by the (Massachusetts) Land Court, it would delay it two years and that's what we want," Archer said. "Within those two years we hope to gather more information and get more people involved."

A hearing date before the Preservation Commission is not yet scheduled.

7-1-03 Avalon Bay Properties will spend some $82 million to redevelop 77 acres of the Danvers State Hospital property, including the central portion of the Kirkbride Building and two wings. The remaining historic Kirkbride complex will be demolished. It will build 526 residential units on top of Hathorne Hill in 14 buildings, as well as 100,000 square feet of commercial space on the lowlands.

The company will seek necessary permits through the various town boards and the state, and expects to pass papers by next fall. It will then begin construction/demolition, working in phases. It should take 8 to 10 months to finish the first buildings, which it will then rent as it continues constructing more buildings. All the residential construction should be completed by 2007. The Kirkbride Building will be the focus, both geographically and architecturally,with new buildings transitioning away in consistent styles, changing to more garden-style dwellings further away from the center.The Kirkbride will prove a common area, and a new building behind it will include a club house and a fitness center, which might have a pool and spa. There will be an open space component acting as a town green. There will also be walking paths, barbecue picnic areas and possibly tot lots, depending on the demographics.

4-19-03 Avalon Bay Communities solidified its commitment to the redevelopment of Danvers State Hospital with the signing of a purchase agreement for the 75 acre property late last week. Avalon put down a $300,000 deposit towards the $18.1 million purchase price from the state. The developer has another 30 days to investigate the hospital grounds and back out before it must add another $1 million to its deposit.

The agreement Avalon signed last week adopts the Archstone development plan as its own, except for a few minor changes.The new document changes a clause that, in the Archstone agreement, called for the developer to use "commercially reasonable efforts to preserve the historic portions of the Kirkbride Building " to "shall use commercially reasonable efforts to preserve, to the extent feasible and safe, the Kirkbride center "tower building" in addition to the two wings on either side. The loss of two-thirds of the 300,000 square foot Kirkbride building has infuriated local historic preservationists, who've continually spoken out against the loss of huge portions of the unique building that is on the National Historic Register.

4-11-03 Representatives of state and national property developer AvalonBay Communities are reportedly on the cusp of signing off on a sales agreement for the main 75 acre portion of the Danvers State Hospital property this week. Avalon has said it plans to follow the development plan drafted by Archstone Properties ,which calls for the development of 478 apartments on top of Hathorne Hill, after demolition of the bulkof the massive hospital buildings that currently tops the hill.

2-17-03 Archstone Communities pulled out from the purchase and sales agreement and is no longer interested in purchasing the hospital.There are conflicting stories why Archstone walked. Some speculate that it was too costly for Archstone and was no longer a financially wise investment. Another reason is that Archtone simply did not want to wait the years it would take before being the official owner of the property.

AvalonBay a company once under consideration and had a prior proposal is again now seeking to purchase the 75 acres ontop of Hathorne Hill. It's been mentioned that AvalonBay is picking up right where Archstone left off and only want's to salvage the main Kirkbride entrance and the two a jointing wings off of the main entrance.







2008-11 | 07 | 06 | 05 | 04 | 03 | 90's | 80's| 70's | 60's| 50's