HomeHistoryGalleryMediaChroniclesAdditional InfoDemolition









2004 Danvers State Hospital Chronicles

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

12-7-04 Permitting holdups delay purchase of state hospital

With the pace of construction approvals for a 485 dwelling development at the former Danvers State Hospital slowed, residential development giant AvalonBay Communities has delayed its multimillion dollar purchase of the property.

Under the original sales agreement, Avalon was to buy the 75 acre compound from the state in September but local and state permits for the mixed apartment/condominium complex haven't come as quickly as expected, prompting the company to delay the purchase until mid-January, said Keven Flanigan, spokesman for the state Division of Capital Asset Management.

The state agreed to sell the property to Avalon for $18.1 million. As part of the contract, Avalon is to give another $4.5 million to the state for housing for the mentally ill, $1 million to the Danvers schools, $500 for local historic preservation and $500,000 to a local affordable housing trust.

Avalon plans to pull down most of the buildings on the crown of Hathorne Hill for its development, including two thirds of the massive, gothic-style, main Kirkbride building. The central tower section of the historic building and two adjointing wings are to be renovated as housing. Condominium and apartment buildings will be erected around the Kirkbride.

But before that happens, the Danvers Planning Board needs to sign off on the plans. Avalon also needs permits from MassHighway and the Department of Environmental Protection. All of its appeals for permits have been held up while the company waits for the state to finish a review of plans to ease traffic from the development, which Avalon said were submitted last December.

"We need to know what direction they want us to head before we take the next step," Avalon Director of Development Scott Dale said. "Until (MassHighway) puts us at the top of their priority list, things are going to move quite slowly."

Calls to MassHighway were not returned this week.

Under its contract with the state, Avalon has the right to delay the sale until the end of January. After that, the company would need the state's agreement for another delay.

11-6-04 Arrest Log Saturday Danvers State Hospital: Philip X was arrested at 2:29 a.m. for trespassing.

11-3-04 Arrest Log Wednessday two teens were arrested on a charge of tresspassing at the Danvers State Hospital site. State and local police were called to the scene

11-1-04 Arrest Log Monday Danvers State Hospital: On-site security detained three trespassers at the closed state hospital and requested assistance from local police who gave the two males a ride back to their car, the other is under arrest.

10-31-04 Arrest Log Sunday Three teens were arrested after they illegally went onto the Danvers State Hospital property, which has been closed since the early 1990s. Eric X 19, Bryan X, 17, and Andrew X 19, were all arrested and charged with trespassing by Patrolman Scott Frost. Security officers paid by the state found the teens on the hospital property around 11 p.m. Frost said the teens said they had seen the horror movie Session 9, which was filmed in part at Danvers State, and wanted to check out the property themselves. Earlier in the evening, a mother and daughter were tossed off the property after they were walking up the driveway trying to get into the hospital, police said.

10-01-04 Construction at state hospital slated for spring

The Danvers State Hospital renovation project, slated to begin this spring, should take around 24 months to complete, developers told planning board members Tuesday night.

Outlining a proposed renovation and demolition schedule, Avalon Bay Communities Vice President Scott Dale said that while the Kirkbride will remain the residential community's center and focal point, the outlying buildings will retain some of the site's architectural features as well as replicate the hospital's brick façade.

"The site work is relatively straight forward," Dale said.

Previously, board members had suggested the development attempt to mirror the site's current exteriors as best as possible. Suggestions included reusing bricks torn down during the project's demolition phase as well as continuing to use the intricate design-work seen on the building today.

Dale said board concerns have been addressed in the development's final designs.

The Kirkbride will be the development's formal front door, Architect Ed Bradford explained to the board, where the leasing office and primary communal spaces will be housed. The Kirkbride's tower will also be rebuilt on the historic building.

Problems come, however, with the Kirkbride's roof which has collapsed in places and been soaked through by rain and snow in others. The building's interior will need to be entirely gutted and the roof completely taken off at one point during the demolition phase.

"The insides are simply rotting into the floors of the building," Bradford said. He also had some good news: "The exterior remains in good shape and is a viable portion of the building."

In time, the building's exterior will be cleaned, and the ivy which currently grows and winds its way across and around the Kirkbride will be removed.

Planning Board member Joseph Younger lobbied for the development to include some type of museum or historic preservation center, suggesting that the site's existing water tower, which will be relocated elsewhere on the property during renovation, could house such a museum.

While developers did not commit to a site for a museum, they did suggest one will be built as part of the site's renovation and development.

The two "midrise" buildings which will be built closest to the Kirkbride and act as buffer between it and the apartments and condominiums built at the property's edges, will mimic the Kirkbride's exteriors as well as act as a visual attempt to phase into the outlying buildings.

Planning Board member Kristine Cheetham said she was impressed with the proposed granite-work at the Kirkbride and would like to see this work replicated on the site's other buildings.

The site's tunnels will also be filled-in during the construction project. First, any utility pipes in the tunnels will be abated, then the asbestos will be removed and finally, the tunnels will be knocked down and filled in to ensure these underground access routes are destroyed.

Younger also asked what would happen should something of importance be discovered during the development project.

Already, the Mass Archives have sifted through the site and suggested that there is nothing worth preserving and archiving inside the building. The developers, however, told board members that should an unmarked burial site be discovered, by state law, the development will stop until the site is excavated.

The Planning Board will next discuss the development's impact on traffic and density during a special meeting scheduled for Nov. 3 at 7 p.m.

9-27-04 Arson suspected in fire at closed Danvers State Hospital.

A team of arson investigators remained at the shuttered Danvers State Hospital early this morning trying to determine who or what started a fire in the main building at the dilapidated facility.

Just before 9 p.m. yestereday a security guard reported smoke coming from the second story of the Kirkbride Building, the once majestic, but now boarded-up "castle on the hill."

Danvers fire Capt. Douglas Conrad said unless a "ghost with matches" haunts the grounds, investigators are certain someone has been inside the building recently. What they are trying to find out is whether the fire was an accident or deliberately set.

"We know someone's been in there," he said "There had to have been someone in there or there wouldn't have been a fire."

If it wasn't intentional, someone trespassing on the state-owned property may have carelessly discarded a cigarette or other burning material, Conrad said.

The Danvers State campus, at the junction of routes 1 and 62, has been without electricity since it closed in the early 1990s, but has long lured visitors looking for a good fright, or hoping to admire the 19th-century Gothic architecture.

Conrad said officials believe the fire started in a pile of old files and documents in a 10- by 20-foot hallway on the second floor of the half-mile-long, 313,000-square-foot Kirkbride Building, the flagship structure of the defunct psychiatric asylum.

While fire crews took only 5 or 10 minutes to knock down the flames, and they were contained to that hallway, Conrad said, firefighters stormed the deteriorated building with caution. Some ceilings and floors have already caved in and walls have crumbled.

The fire must have been smoldering for a while before breaking, filling the former administrative area with smoke, Conrad said.

"We were really careful," he said, adding that firefighters walked lightly and stuck mainly to perimeter areas to avoid falling through the floor.

Their caution paid off, as no one was hurt battling the blaze, Conrad said.

An official cause of the fire should be available today, Conrad said. The amount of damage caused by the fire was immaterial, he added, because the hospital will soon be torn down and the grounds converted into a multimillion-dollar housing complex.

The developer, AvalonBay, plans to buy the property from the state next month and is hoping to start demolition by early November.

4 -08-04 Demolition/construction could start in fall

Plans detailing the dramatic $75 million renovation of the former Danvers State Hospital site have been formally submitted by Avalon Bay Communities, kicking off a process that brings the development one big step closer to reality.

Avalon Bay Spokesman Scott Dale said the project, called Avalon at Hathorne Hill, will preserve approximately 100,000 square feet of the Kirkbride Building, including the main administration building and the two symmetrical wings on either side. That renovated structure will contain the development's leasing and administrative offices as well as community and recreational areas for residents. It will also contain 61 apartment units.

"It's quite an exciting plan," said Dale. "We're very glad to have brought it to this stage."

In total, the extensive plan includes 485 residence units, 60 of which will be for-sale condominiums and 425 of which will be apartments. All 60 of the condominiums will be age-restricted, meaning they can only be purchased by buyers who are 55 or older, and six of them will be classified as "affordable." Of the 425 apartments, approximately 15 percent of them will be set aside as affordable units.

"We're trying to describe this as an intergenerational, mixed-income housing community," said Dale. "The objective of the overall design is to create a campus style setting, with a variation of architectural styles. We're trying to create some variability, but have some consistency so it does look like a master-style campus."

Dale said the development will offer a broad range of amenities, including several fitness options as well as walking trails and open space.

"There are other areas on the site we could have developed but chose not to," said Dale. "For example, coming up the main entry to the top of the hill, there are areas on the side of the road where you could put buildings. We think that's an important entry way; we'd prefer to preserve it."

Town Manager Wayne Marquis praised the plan for offering age-restricted housing, which Danvers currently does not have, for bringing jobs to town and for preserving open space.

"At the end of the day, there are 350 acres (of the state hospital site) in Danvers. Most of it stays," said Marquis. "Most of it will remain as it is now: farmland." The plan has been years in the making, with the process actually beginning in the early 1980s. After the Legislature approved rezoning, a citizens advisory committee went to work. The process continued unexpectedly with AvalonBay taking over last year from a developer that backed out.

In the meantime, much of the Kirkbride suffered deterioration, which made it less easy to preserve, and despite protests from some in town, the plan saves only one-third of the massive, neo-Gothic structure.

1-22-04 Developer wants permits by the fall

Members of the Preservation Commission are getting ready to deal with some 40 requests from Avalon Bay Communities to demolish buildings at Danvers State Hospital, including two-thirds of the huge Kirkbride building.

There will be a public hearing Wednesday, Jan. 28, in Town Hall, after the Herald deadline. The six-month demolition delay clock does not start to tick until this hearing is complete.

However, the Preservation Commission will probably ask for a continuance of the hearing, both because of the volume of work and in order to arrange site visits.

The state and the town have been working for some 20 years to redevelop the property. There are now 75 acres available for sale and for which AvalonBay has offered $18 million. The sale will not be complete until the company receives the local permits to build 526 apartments on top of Hathorn Hill, in a series of 14 buildings shadowing one-third of the Kirkbride, which will house administration and community functions.

The company will also give $500,00 to an historic trust fund, $500,00 to an affordable housing trust, $1 million to the Danvers school fund, and $4.5 million for housing to the state mental health department.

"There are significant benefits that will ultimately flow from it," said Avalon Bay's Scot Dale, who mentioned, too, the estimated $1 million in taxes.

Preservation Commission Chairman Kathryn Morano expects that the hearing will be continued, because there are four "booklets" of demolition request materials from the developers. Also, members want to arrange with the state to take tours of some of the buildings they have yet to see, she said in an interview Tuesday. In particular, she mentioned the Gray Gables, which some so-called urban explorers have said is in quite good condition, despite its outward appearance and assurances from the state that it is beyond repair.

The commission has already found the buildings "historically significant." They must now determine if they are "worthy of preservation," she said.

"Sometimes a building is beyond restoration," she said.

That, however, seems to be in dispute with a number of buildings at the site.

Scatt Dale of AvalonBay said they would bring an "overlay," as requested by the commission members although not required by the bylaw, to show their new project compared to what is there now. In addition, they have provided photos of all sides of the buildings, as required.

Town Manager Wayne Marquis said he hoped the commission would agree that at least some of the buildings were OK to demolish. A continuance once or twice is quite common, he said, but significant delays would not be in the best interests of the town.

The developer expects to have permits in place by the autumn, Dale said.






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