SALEM — A hotel being developed in an uncommon space downtown is planning some uncommon features, including basement level shuffleboard, a vintage design up front and rooftop dining options.
Meet Hotel Salem, the 44-room Lark Hotel boutique hotel at 209 Essex St., by all approximation the heart of downtown’s Pedestrian Mall.
The plans for Hotel Salem got special attention at a series of informal, informational meetings hosted by Ward 2 City Councilor Heather Famico on Tuesday and Wednesday. Plans for Peabody Essex Museum’s long-awaited expansion also got a showing at the events.
Today, the building’s windows facing Essex Street are mostly covered in kraft paper. An opening in the kraft coverings allows for limited line of sight to an empty, unoccupied space in the midst of construction and demolition.
“We’re pretty far along the process,” said Paul Durand, principal at Winter Street Architects, the company handling the design of the project, as he presented the future of the building to neighbors. “I’m going to show you where we are.”
The project is expected to take about seven months and aims to begin after Halloween, leaving crews enough time to take care of outside utility work before the ground freezes toward the end of the year, according to Durand.
On the outside, the Newmark Building will see extensive masonry repairs and enlarging of all the windows on Essex Street, according to Durand.
Farmers throughout the North Shore are seeing the effects of the long summer drought in smaller vegetables and fruits, and fewer of them.
In Danvers, Bill Clark, whose family has operated Clark Farm for nearly 300 years, says he got less squash this year than usual. The tomatoes fared a little better.
“They were very sweet, but some of them weren’t quite as big as they usually are,” he said. “There’s less product around to share. It’s made what’s available more expensive.”
But he knows others who are in worse shape.
Corn didn’t grow because of the dryness, Clark said. Some orchards have also seen great reductions in produce; he mentioned one in New Hampshire that he said is trucking in water each day.
The long, dry season has been so difficult that the government has stepped in, including Essex County under a drought designation that makes farmers eligible for both a disaster program and emergency loans.
Clark said he won’t need assistance from either of the programs. He added, though, that a loan program can be difficult on farmers in terms of being able to pay the money back.
One notable difference at his farm, Clark said, is he doesn’t think he will put in a cover crop this year. He usually uses winter rye, which grows a couple of inches in the fall and helps with soil erosion, along with other benefits.
“I just think it’s going to be a waste of time,” he said. “It will probably just lay on the surface.”
At Brooksby Farm in Peabody, workers were able to maintain the orchards with an irrigation system, according to Michelle Melanson, an assistant manager.
“Our apple crop looks good, it doesn’t look exceptional,” she said. “There’s definitely not a bumper crop. We may have a shorter season.”
Earlier varieties didn’t fare as well as the later ones, she said. Tomatoes, zucchini and summer squash were “OK.”
DANVERS — In June 2010, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation announced what it hailed as a “great” new public-private partnership with the Liberty Tree Mall.
Simon Properties, the giant real estate company that owns the mall, agreed to provide space for a Registry of Motor Vehicles branch at no cost. It was one of four new rent-free branches throughout the state that officials said would save taxpayers $700,000 per year in leasing costs.
Six years later, the Liberty Tree Mall branch is closed and the state is searching, unsuccessfully so far, for a new location to serve North Shore residents. And based on the only two offers it has received, taxpayers are in for some serious sticker shock.
The two proposals, from property owners in Peabody and Beverly, called for annual rents ranging from $400,000 to $700,000. The state rejected those offers and last week issued a second request for proposals, this time expanding the area for potential sites to include Lynn, Lynnfield, Wakefield and Middleton.
State officials are obviously hoping to receive less expensive offers the second time around. But whatever happens, taxpayers are certain to be on the hook for much more money than they were paying at Liberty Tree Mall, which was $41,729 in the final year of a three-year lease.
What makes the matter more confounding for the public is the explanation for why the mall branch closed — a malfunctioning HVAC system.
In announcing the closing in June, the Department of Transportation said the current HVAC system was insufficient and the upgrades needed to make the location viable were “too costly.” The mall installed a new HVAC system at a cost of $25,000 in 2015, but RMV officials said problems with the air-conditioning persisted, forcing them to move out.
Many RMV customers are having a hard time buying the explanation that a faulty HVAC system was the real cause of a move that could end up costing taxpayers 10 times more than they were paying for the mall.
Danvers state Rep. Ted Speliotis agreed that there must be more to the breakup between the registry and the mall, but he said he doesn’t know what it is.
“I don’t know enough to comment,” he said. “I do know enough to know it was bigger than just the HVAC.”
SWAMPSCOTT — A group led by Rabbi Yossi Lipsker and his wife, Layah, of Chabad of the North Shore, recently headed on a humanitarian mission after the flood waters receded in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
At first, they wondered if their services would still be needed, since the flooding had subsided.
Turns out, there was plenty to do during the two-day mission late last month.
Louisiana suffered terrible flooding in August, with entire neighborhoods and tens of thousands of people affected. Many lost everything in their homes. It has been considered the worst natural disaster to affect the nation since Superstorm Sandy in 2012.
The trip, from Aug. 29 to 31, involved 16 people who volunteered in some of the hardest hit parts of Baton Rouge. Although the flood waters had receded, streets still contained piles of ruined possessions.
The trip was organized by Chabad of the North Shore and sponsored by Nate Dalton, Lipsker said. It involved a cross section of the community, with Jews and non-Jews flying down to help out.
“It was a desire to help,” Lipsker said. “This is part of representing the Jewish community.” It’s a central part of the Jewish faith not to turn your back when there is a need, Lipsker said.
“Everyone who went really felt we would make a concrete difference,” Lipsker said.
Massachusetts First Lady Lauren Baker, a Swampscott resident, connected the group with the Red Cross.
“She was able to immediately to get us to the right people to make sure we were deployed and we were able to make a difference,” Lipsker said.
BEVERLY — Not Your Average Joe’s may be moving to Peabody, but Evviva Cucina is ready to take over its old location.
The 45 Enon St. location is empty at the moment, but the new Italian restaurant plans to open its doors in a few months, according to Chris Kourkoulis, the property owner and manager.
“They’re probably going to start working in a few weeks,” Kourkoulis said, adding that the owners are working on obtaining the site’s liquor license and may also put in a new patio.
Evviva Cucina assumed Not Your Average Joe’s lease, Kourkoulis said. He added that he thinks it’s a “very good fit for the space.”
Evviva Cucina’s location in Westford boasts a menu filled with Italian favorites, from a variety of pizzas, made in a wood stone oven, to chicken Marsala and chicken Parmigiana. The restaurant also offers sandwiches and has a full bar.
SALEM — Salem State University’s graduation rate has climbed over the 50 percent mark for the first time, a milestone in the school’s effort to improve what has been the lowest graduation rate among Massachusetts’ state universities.
The rate, which tracks the percentage of freshmen who graduate within six years, is now at 52 percent, an increase of more than 10 percent in the last five years.
Salem State officials cited several reasons for the improvement, including more support for struggling students, increased flexibility in choosing courses, and a reduction in the number of unprepared students admitted to the school.
“We’re thrilled,” said Corey Cronin, assistant vice president for marketing and creative services at Salem State. “What we have put in place is actually working. It’s helping our students graduate more quickly, which saves them money.”
Salem State has ranked last among the nine state universities for several years in a row in the six-year graduation rate for full-time freshmen. Graduation rates at other state universities ranged from 74 percent at Massachusetts College of Art and Design to 49 percent at Worcester State University in 2013. Salem State’s rate was as low as 37 percent for the 2001 freshman class.
Scott James, vice president for enrollment management and student life, said Salem State has historically had a lower graduation rate in part because it serves a larger percentage of low-income students.
BEVERLY — Earning Congressman Seth Moulton's first Peter J. Gomes Service Award came as a surprise to Andrew DeFranza, executive director for Harborlight Community Partners.
There were six finalists narrowed down from a nominee pool of 30. But DeFranza's work with Harborlight to provide housing to those most in need throughout the North Shore stood out.
The new award, established by Moulton about a month ago and awarded in Lynn Sunday, endeavors to annually recognize someone in the 6th Congressional District, which Moulton represents, "who best epitomizes the qualities of integrity, compassion, and commitment to community that were the foundation of the late Reverend Professor Peter J. Gomes' teachings," according to a news release.
Gomes was the minister of the The Memorial Church of Harvard University for almost 40 years, and was also an author and teacher. He passed away in 2011 at age 68. Moulton cited Gomes as "my mentor and my friend."
“He once wrote, 'The very definition of service is to love our neighbors as ourselves, work for peace and not for war, and remember that the only hands on earth to do the work of service are our own,'" Moulton said in a prepared statement.
During the award ceremony, Moulton described how through the last nine years, Harborlight has helped create nearly 500 affordable housing units throughout the North Shore.
"But it was the description submitted by his nominator that really set Andrew apart," Moulton said. "This focus on community and affordable housing is not merely to put a roof over the heads of those in need, but it also an effort to ensure that many public servants — teachers, law enforcement officers, and firefighters — can afford to live in the town in which they work and have grown up."
DeFranza said that all of the nominees and finalists are "great people" and stressed that "everything we're doing is a very large team effort." That goes for staff at Harborlight to the people living in the complexes the organization helps build, to the local officials and boards that help push the projects forward and include "people who might be excluded in the North Shore."
DANVERS — It’s been more than a year since Gov. Charlie Baker came to the U.S. headquarters of medical device maker Abiomed and smashed a wall with a golden sledgehammer, symbolizing the company’s expansion into adjacent warehouse space once used by a trucking company.
Abiomed CEO, President and Chairman Michael Minogue, a former Army infantry officer and a Desert Storm veteran, also took up the sledgehammer, tearing a hole into the wall at a time when his company was on a tear with plans to add 100 jobs.
Since then, the medical device maker has more than met its hiring goal, and it has also expanded its expansion plans.
The increasing use by hospitals to treat severely ill heart patients with Abiomed’s Impella, the world’s smallest heart pump, has meant big things for the Danvers-based company, which is expanding its manufacturing and engineering facilities at its U.S. headquarters at 22 Cherry Hill Drive.
In July, the publicly traded company reported $103 million in revenue for the quarter, a 40 percent jump compared with the same period last year. U.S. patient use of the Impella was up 40 percent, and the company said it added 27 hospitals in the quarter, bringing its installed customer base to 1,066 hospitals.
To illustrate its growth, the company set a goal two years ago of treating 37,673 patients with Impella — enough to fill Fenway Park.
Today, Abiomed has surpassed that goal.
Since last year, the company has not only been working on its previously announced expansion plans in the building, but it has taken over the entire facility. Minogue said Abiomed is in the process of buying the property.
The expansion will increase the facility from 60,000 square feet to 170,000 square feet. The company will have more than doubled its manufacturing capability in Danvers.
The expansion will hold manufacturing and engineering space, along with a new 100-seat training room where physicians and nurses can learn how to use the company’s heart-assist technology. The company is also adding a new front entrance to the building.
Minogue showed a cavernous manufacturing clean room that has been outfitted with workbenches as the company goes through the painstaking process of readying the room for medical device manufacturing.
BEVERLY — Endicott College President Richard Wylie greeted Beverly native Pete Frates Tuesday afternoon for the dedication of the college's newest dorm, which bears his name, with Wylie jokingly thanking Frates for not wearing his Boston College colors. The celebration also featured a possible record-breaking Ice Bucket Challenge, an event synonymous with Frates and ALS.
Frates, his wife Julie, daughter Lucy, father and Ward 6 City Councilor John Frates, mother Nancy, brother Andrew and other friends and family looked on as hundreds of Endicott College students and staff, wearing T-shirts and gym shorts, doused themselves with buckets of water. They yelled and cheered as they cooled off on what turned into a hot summer afternoon, as the group crowded around an embankment at the back of the new Peter Frates Hall, a 225-bed undergraduate residence hall on campus.
The college estimates 1,500 people took part in the challenge. The previously known record for the largest group to get a cold soaking is 776, according to the college.
Lucy and Julie Frates were given the honor of pulling a string that eventually released a tarp to reveal the engraved name at the front of the building, which is now visible along Hale Street (Route 127).
"We have received an awful lot of accolades, tributes and honors, but nothing of a permanent nature such as this," said John Frates. "So we thank you, forever."
He said his son refused to listen to doctors who told him he should live out the few years he would have left in a quiet manner to reserve his energy. Instead, Pete Frates harnessed social media to trigger change, "and prove that one man can make a huge difference in this world."
Mom Nancy Frates noted to the hundreds of well wishers gathered that this day was important for the whole community.
"Our family's hope is that the building's residents find inspiration, enlightenment, friendship and great learning within its walls," she said.
Students who live in this dorm will know of Pete Frates' legacy because inside the front foyer is a tribute wall, the Frates Wall, designed and installed by White Light Visual in Beverly.
The walls shows Frates during his ball playing days taking a left-hand swing next to Lou Gehrig, the famous Yankee player who was also cut down at age 37 by ALS in 1941.
PEABODY — Peabody will become home to one of the state’s largest nonprofits, when Lynnfield-based Bridgewell, which has bought an office building on Dearborn Road in Peabody, moves its headquarters there in early 2017. It will be one of the city’s largest employers.
Bridgewell provides services to 6,250 individuals with developmental and physical disabilities, autism, and other life challenges, such as substance abuse and homelessness.
“This is an important step to ensure Bridgewell remains in a strong position of continued growth over the next decade and beyond,” said Bob Stearns, the agency’s president and CEO. He cited increased demand for the agency’s adult autism services and programs for women recovering from addiction.
Bridgewell employs more than 1,400 people at facilities in 25 communities on the North Shore and Merrimack Valley, including in Danvers, Lynn and Haverhill.
On Aug. 1, Bridgewell completed the $3.5 million purchase of 10 Dearborn Road, where nearly 100 employees will work, mainly in administrative areas, program management and human resources.
“We have outgrown our administrative office,” Stearns said in an interview. “We have outgrown our space on Route 1.”
The new Peabody headquarters will also house Bridgewell’s Center for Professional Innovation, which offers continuing education workshops and training for mental health and health care professionals.
“We are thrilled to welcome Bridgewell to Peabody,” Mayor Ted Bettencourt said in a prepared statement. “In addition to becoming one of the largest employers in (Peabody), Bridgewell meets the needs of more than 6,000 individuals annually with a range of disabilities and life challenges, from autism to opioid addiction.”
Stearns, who has been with Bridgewell for 13 years, said the organization started in downtown Lynn by families with children in need of services. In 1958, it was a child guidance center helping those with emotional difficulties. It transitioned in the 1970s as state institutions closed and services were moved out into the community.
The McKay School was once a place to learn; now it’s a place to live.
It’s been a couple of years since Beverly Crossing, an arm of Windover Development, was awarded the winning bid to turn the school into apartments, but construction has concluded and the building opened in July. The first tenant moved in then, according to Chris Koeplin of Beverly Crossing.
Now, 15 of the 32 apartments and town homes are leased, and people have moved into 13 of those. The new complex is split into two parts: apartments in the former school, built in 1908, and town homes built in a new section added on back.
There are 19 one-bedroom units and 13 two-bedrooms, according to Matthew Lamoureux, the property manager for the project through The Dolben Company.
Walking into the old school, visitors find a mix of its classic features and modern updates. Much of the old, wooden flooring was preserved, and some of the banisters running along the staircases were reused. Historic photos line some of the walls, providing a window into life in Beverly in the past. Columns original to the building still stand in the entrance.
“We tried to preserve what we could, as much as we could,” Koeplin said.
But the building also has many new features, including a function room with a large television and a gym nearby. There are small garden plots in the back, and a path along Shoe Pond that’s supposed to complete the path around it that goes near the Cummings Center.
The school units feature high ceilings, and some of the old school hallways were turned into walk-in closets. The kitchen in a two-bedroom apartment opens up to the living room and features quartz countertops and stainless-steel appliances.
Efficiency was key. The common areas have motion-sensor lighting and will automatically turn off when not in use. The walls were also re-insulated with foam insulation, which is more efficient, according to Koeplin.
“We did solar on this roof here,” he said, gesturing skyward. “The solar powers the common areas.”
Town homes have their own separate entrances, and each comes with a patio.
Rent ranges from $1,835 to $2,175 for one-bedroom units — some feature a den — while two-bedrooms go for $2,200 to $2,625 in the school, Lamoureux said. The town homes go for a minimum of $1,895. Each comes with two parking spaces.
“There’s a lot of interest in the school,” Koeplin said, but less demand for the town homes.
So far, renters are a mix — some empty-nesters, some families. There’s also been some interest from people who work at the Cummings Center.
DANVERS — Asked to speak about one thing in his community that contributes to the economic vitality of the North Shore, Peabody Mayor Ted Bettencourt touted the work to revitalize Peabody Square.
“Downtown Peabody is again open for business,” Bettencourt said.
He and his fellow North Shore mayors, as well as the Danvers town manager, highlighted numerous projects and initiatives going on in their communities during the annual State of the Region address Wednesday morning at the North Shore Chamber of Commerce’s annual breakfast forum. Approximately 325 business leaders attended the event at the Danversport Yacht Club.
Bettencourt highlighted $6 million worth of state and local improvements to Peabody’s downtown, including a new traffic pattern, sidewalks, flood control measures and other upgrades to one of the busiest roadways in the region that handles nearly 30,000 vehicles each day.
“During the past 30 years or so, however, downtown Peabody has struggled to create an identity,” Bettencourt said. The downtown was seen as little more than a dreary, prone-to-flooding, pedestrian-unfriendly cut-through to Route 128 and the Northshore Mall.
“Many in Peabody, however, saw something different, saw possibilities, saw a future,” said Bettencourt, who said he ran for mayor in part to revitalize Peabody Square and Main Street.
The ongoing road work there includes the elimination of dangerous slip lanes and the relocation of the Civil War monument from the middle of Peabody Square to the front of Peabody District Court.
Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll noted her city, which has seen rapid growth in recent years, is just 10 years away from its 400th anniversary, and it’s time to start thinking about what kind of community Salem will be in 2026.
“We are seeing unprecedented growth,” said Driscoll, who listed a number of ongoing projects in the Witch City — from the $40 million National Grid cable transmission replacement project, the planned $230 million investment in the Salem campus of North Shore Medical Center, the $12 million fix to Canal Street and the $55 million renovation of the probate court building, which is nearing completion.
Driscoll also highlighted the ongoing $1 billion construction of Footprint Power’s gas-fired power plant at the site of the former coal- and oil-burning Salem Harbor Station. That project will also open up 40 acres of land along Salem Harbor, she said.