Danvers State Sold to Developers
Thursday, December 15th 2005
DANVERS - The Kirkbride now belongs to AvalonBay.
The state sold Danvers State Hospital to the Virginia-based developer yesterday in a deal worth $12 million, sealing 22 years of discussions over the fate of the 77-acre abandoned asylum property.
AvalonBay plans to build 497 apartments and condominiums on the site and demolish most of the Kirkbride building, a Victorian Gothic-style, eight-winged fortress stretching for a quarter-mile that has lured artists and ghost hunters since it closed in 1992.
Officials yesterday touted the economic benefits of the deal. The state will receive $3.2 million of the sale money to build affordable housing for Department of Mental Health clients. About $6 million will go into the state's general fund.
Danvers will receive about $2 million, which will be set aside for education, historic preservation and affordable housing. The town will also see a boost of about $1 million in annual property tax revenues. And 70 units will be added to the town's affordable housing stock.
"It's good news because it puts to positive use a number of acres of property that has fallen into disrepair due to lack of use," Town Manager Wayne Marquis said. "I look forward to making it a very high-quality project and one we can all be proud of."
But the sale has faced sharp criticism from a group of local preservationists who have spent more than $25,000 trying to stop it.
Danvers resident John Archer, one of the most vocal critics of the project, said officials missed a perfect opportunity to restore a structure with rich history and fascinating architecture.
"This is an abysmal moment in North Shore history," Archer said. "To celebrate that building and bring it back to life would have been one of the greatest things. It would have put Danvers on the map.
"They should be ashamed of themselves," he said of the project's stakeholders. "Their lack of insight is pathetic. It's devastating to our history."
Preservationists stalled the sale for two months by challenging it in court, but both times a judge eventually allowed the transaction to proceed.
Archer admitted that his group is running out of options.
"We have nothing else at this point to say," Archer said. "I wish I had some hope."
AvalonBay Vice President Scott Dale could not be reached for comment yesterday.
The Kirkbride, which once served more than 2,000 hospital patients, will soon house 61 apartments and a function room. Crews will add a lounge, fitness center and indoor basketball court to the rear of the structure.
As part of the deal, AvalonBay agreed to create a permanent memorial honoring the legacy of former hospital patients and staff and maintain a cemetery just below the summit of Hathorne Hill.
The developer can start knocking down parts of the Kirkbride and 39 other buildings as soon as it receives a demolition permit from the town. Building Inspector Peter Bryson said the town must act within 30 days after receiving AvalonBay's application. Because of the weakened condition of the Kirkbride, the portion of the building that will be retained will first have to be shored up before the wings can be dismantled, he said.
"It's not as simple as tearing down a shed. ... There may be portions where they can literally push it over," Bryson said. "There may be portions that will require a more delicate procedure."
Bryson said he expects AvalonBay to begin demolition quickly.
"Obviously, the sooner they go forward and the sooner they generate income off the piece of property, the more successful they are," he said.
The developers hope to start construction in early 2006 and wrap up by February 2008, according to a news release issued last night.
This article was written by Chris Cassidy and published by The Salem News on Thursday, December 15th 2005 and NOT owned by nor affiliated with opacity.us, but are recorded here solely for educational use. The photographs featured in the article are randomly selected from the Danvers State Hospital galleries on opacity.us unless noted otherwise; they may not directly relate to the article subject matter except for the site location - any other relation is purely coincidental.