Peabody’s dead zone downtown takes another hit, beat goes on

31 May

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

At this point, why not just build a slot machine parlor, a petting zoo, or … even a roller coaster?

Or, in an effort to fit with the rest of the surroundings in Peabody Square, why not attract another barber shop, nail salon or liquor store to the now up-for-auction O’Shea Building at the corner of Main and Foster?

Get a haircut on the first floor, a manicure on the second, and then treat yourself to some tasty Mad Dog 20/20 on the rotting third floor of the historic building. You can share your tasty beverage with the urban “campers,” who have taken over the square, which these days looks like one of those Arizona ghost towns at night, minus the tumble weeds of course.


Peabody Square on a Saturday night?

Might as well, since our civic leaders, especially His Honor the Mayor, Ted Bettencourt, have no other clue, have no real plan for revitalizing our downtown. They have no idea on how to grow our commercial tax base, and take the pressure off residential ratepayers, who have endured 14 straight years of tax increases.

And, another increase is coming in December, so Merry Christmas, Peabody!

What’s the fastest way to scrape the Teflon off Teflon Ted? Well, just keep raising taxes on seniors on fixed incomes, who are by far our largest voter base. The “Oh, what a nice young man,” he’s heard for years from the blue hair set could soon be replaced with an “up yours, sonny!”

The latest disaster downtown?

Well, the Salem News reported today that plans to convert the O’Shea Building into a boutique hotel (or, if you prefer, more “much-needed” apartments) have ended because of financial difficulties of yet another dubious local “developer.”

In the words of the boys in “Animal House” after wrecking the Caddy Flounder borrowed from his brother …

“You screwed up … you trusted us!”

Of course,  the other question here is how are we going to get back the $200K the city gave this character by way of a business loan?

The O’Shea Building disaster could be a poster child for the failed efforts to revitalize the downtown area under Bettencourt, a happenstance for which the Mayor only has himself to blame. After all, there remains no strategic plan for redevelopment, only starts and stops, failed hunches, and deals with developers, who would turn the downtown into a Syrian refugee camp … if they thought that’s how they could make the most dough.

What happened with the O’Shea Building is what happens all the time in Peabody. The Mayor and several city councilors get duped after some fly-by-night developer makes goo goo eyes at them, and maybe even a few very legal campaign contributions.

In this case, this pipe dream of a project had trouble written all over it from the start as the developer first talked about a hotel with a restaurant before morphing the project (as the all seem to) into apartments instead of a hotel.

In case you haven’t noticed, the only real development downtown the past 20 years has been shoe-box apartments, many of which have turned into Section 8 Housing. Not sure those poor people have the discretionary “cake” to buy lattes at the fantasy cafes, sample small plates at the fictitious bistros, or shop at the imaginary boutiques that now line Main Street.

But don’t blame the developers, who have about as many scruples as most members of Congress. They’re just trying to make a buck.

Blame the continued blight downtown on the city council and the 9-to-5er who currently occupies the corner office at city hall.

The fact is, despite being in office for almost six years, His Honor still had NO plan for revitalizing downtown. He has surrounded himself with yes men who have no clue, and has no interest in finding talented people who know how to improve things the way they have — in dramatic fashion — in places such as Newburyport, Salem, or even Danvers. Instead of hiring true experience and talent for important community development positions, Bettencourt chooses instead to rely on the “friends and family plan” for filling those very critical jobs.

Oh sure, they’ve moved that poor monument a few times, and made Main Street so much safer for pedestrians. It’s only too bad that there aren’t enough pedestrians to enjoy not being hit by a car, since there’s very few who come downtown for anything. I mean, I like Brodie’s too, but how many chicken fingers can one person eat!?

While Salem, Beverly and Danvers are bustling on a Fridays or Saturdays, there’s plenty of available parking in Peabody Square. Of course, that parking has a one-hour time limit, which makes about as much sense as the Mayor’s imaginary revitalization plan.

“I think there’s real value to that (O’Shea) building,” Bettencourt told the Salem News, the Mayor no doubt very optimistic about my roller coaster suggestion. “It has some charm, it’s in a great location … I probably have had a dozen developers in the last few years inquiring (about it).”

But no takers, and now a listing by JJ Manning Auctioneers states the auction will be held today, 11 a.m. at 9 Main St. According to the Salem News, the terms of sale include a 10 percent deposit with $50,000 down, and the rest within three days.

I hear that wannabe liquor store owners are already camping out so they can be first in line.

40 Responses to “Peabody’s dead zone downtown takes another hit, beat goes on”

  1. Al May 31, 2017 at 11:29 pm #

    I miss China Corner… seriously. That place was great. It’s so depressing downtown, 180 degrees from how Salem is bustling.

    By the way, the phrase used in Animal House was stronger than “screwed up” but I imagine you’re trying to keep it clean.

    • Bob June 1, 2017 at 6:20 pm #

      You’re right about “Animal House!” I screwed up the line. Then again, I’m tryingto keep the blog PG-13. 🙂

  2. Anonymous June 1, 2017 at 8:07 am #

    This is not surprising. I guess not even the pop up beer nights could save this disaster planning….btw where is the actual strategic plan? Maybe the city should just buy this building too….that was a joke. Serious question, wasn’t the city providing cheap loans for this developer? And did the city take any loss in this turn of events?

  3. Fed Up Peabody Senior TAXPAYER June 1, 2017 at 8:58 am #

    You are right on Bob. Couldn’t have said it better myself.

  4. Anonymous June 2, 2017 at 3:46 pm #

    Why didn’t they use some of that empty space for school adim offices. instead, lets pay rent for ever & have our taxes go up every year.

  5. Ran out of Money Long Ago June 5, 2017 at 9:56 pm #

    Can anyone explain the $500,000 slush fund (Financial Administration)in the Mayor’s 2018 city budget? Zero in 2015,2016, Zero in Fy2017 Year to date. What gives? More OverTime $$$ for City employees?

  6. Anonymous June 7, 2017 at 1:15 pm #

    I was absolutely disgusted by the school committee and our good guy Mayor last night during the approval of the school budget last night. Whether or not there are laws protecting them from responding to the public should not shield them from the lack of empathy for the abysmal budget they approved last night. If its all about the kids and you have educated Peabody educators telling them they are hurting the children for consistency and support, how could you just sit there and say nothing? Further, what they continue not to realize is the meeting may be over but the cameras and sometimes microphones are still going. Seeing the Mayor smiling and participating in a most likely a joke was disrespectful and the SC not leaving their chairs for sometime to prevent any conversations is cowardly. I am not a union person but hearing their rep finally call out the city for the level 3 status and call them out for thinking it will just fix itself in time was epic. It has gone from a 24% to 17%…Meaning the schools are worsening. It’s disgusting and they all need to go!

  7. Anon123 June 7, 2017 at 3:07 pm #

    Sadly I must agree with the previous comment …cutting funding to the schools is the exact opposite of what we need. We are dangerously close to the state taking over our schools, because level 4 is right around the corner. This is a community problem, being “just good enough” ISN’T good enough. Families are avoiding and fleeing the city, and you wonder why property values are down while taxes keep rising??? Even worse, parents are starting to send their kids to other schools while still living in Peabody. It’s a disgrace, and needs a complete overhaul. Stop pandering to Brooksby Village residents and get it together! I mean how can kids take school seriously when they lose teachers every year, there’s no attendance policy (ABSURD), and we have 1980s technology??

  8. Anon123 June 7, 2017 at 6:40 pm #

    I notice that Peabody is also hiring an athletic director….how much is that non-academic position going to pay? Isn’t Herbie’s son a gym teacher? Can anyone say “interim AD?” Stay tuned…

    • ANON June 8, 2017 at 10:27 am #

      Don’t agree with much of the rhetoric on this site as I think slamming the Mayor for things beyond his control is just silly. Again, if he isn’t up to your standards, then as Col Jessup said in a Few Good Men:” I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it! I would rather you just said “thank you” and went on your way, Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon and stand a post.” Now, obviously the weapon part is off, but you get my point. If he isn’t “good” enough, grab a signature for, get your names, makes some signs and RUN against him. Otherwise, stop whining. However, on this note I say this…..the AD should be interesting. He has long been overdue to be shuffled out. Maybe he works a lot of hours, but the way the athletic department is run with it’s absurd rules regarding student athletes…..time for a change!

      • Anon123 June 8, 2017 at 11:57 am #

        While I understand and respect your (awesome) movie quote, I need to ask; do you REALLY believe herbie is the best superintendent for Peabody public schools? Honestly? Ignore the fact that he’s “interim” (and therefore has no vested interest in the long term success of our schools), and the fact he is still collecting a pension. Is he really the best we can do? If the answer is no, then you have no one to thank but our mayor. My major problem is with Levine, and by extension the mayor.

    • Ran out of Money Long Ago June 9, 2017 at 9:04 am #

      AD paid $100K+ last year.

  9. ANON June 8, 2017 at 12:49 pm #

    I get what you are saying there. BUT, is it Levine’s or the Mayor’s fault no one wants the job. By and large, I honestly think Levine has done a good job. What people are really upset about is the fact he is “double dipping”. Again, maybe he is? But, that is not his fault. I say a guy with the level of experience he has, for now, until we can actually get a good fit to apply, is the right guy for the job.

    • Anon123 June 8, 2017 at 6:52 pm #

      You “honestly think Levine had done a good job”….um, you know we are a level 3 school district under HIS watch, don’t you? I hope you are just unaware, and not one of those “content with good enough”‘residents that I referred to in my first post.

      • ANON June 9, 2017 at 11:10 am #

        Not content at all. I just think more of the issues we have being Level 3 start with the leadership @ the HS. My best guess is Levin’s hands are tied. He makes a change there, all hell breaks lose. All I know is this, when the last Principle who has since retired a few years back, that school ran like a tight ship

  10. Fed Up Taxpayer June 8, 2017 at 4:43 pm #

    Time for a change! The fresh new candidate Steve Collins came by my house and said he would stand up to this administration and will defeat Rossignoll (no chance he wins). He is not afraid of these out of touch elitists, who never really earned their spots to begin with. Can’t wait to see who shows up tomorrow at the AOH, should be interesting.

  11. Anon123 June 13, 2017 at 5:24 pm #

    Exactly what’s wrong with this city….our priorities are out of whack!

    • Ran out of Money Long Ago June 13, 2017 at 9:41 pm #

      Can I puke now? What is affordable about doubling homeowners’ taxes to put more hacks on the city payroll? Teachers make close to $100K a “school year”, police average $100K+ ,Firefighters work two days a week(with 8 hours OT guaranteed) for $80K+. $15 /hr. for part-timers . Screw the Peabody homeowners, they can afford to pay more. The Mayor needs (another) raise!

      • ANON June 14, 2017 at 8:54 am #

        “– Peabody Mayor Ted Bettencourt’s FY2018 budget proposal confirms that Peabody will again boast the lowest average residential property tax bill for a city in Essex County”….Are you people ok??? What are you missing here? And if you think ANY teachers are making 100k you are out of your ever loving minds, trust me, Spin it however you want by saying “school year”, I know for fact it’s not true. Yes, AD’s and House Masters and Deans…..way over paid and are up there. But, not your rank and file teacher. As for fire fighters and Cops…..far as I am concerned, under paid for the risks they take.

    • Anonymous June 14, 2017 at 8:34 am #

      These puff pieces infuriate me but at the same time make me smile because it demonstrates their perceptions. The laundry list of items that he tout’s are basic expectations when you pay taxes into the system. The idea that he specifically says “no-fee” trash pickup is the most idiotic because we do pay a fee every time we pay our tax bill’s…These people just re-brand it make it sound like they give stuff away for free when in fact someone is always paying for it. This Mayor continues to underfund the schools and creates additional taxes to parents that send their children to these schools. They just call them fee’s or the best one of all is the donation tree…It is sickening that the schools do not have the proper supplies so the teachers/schools are place into a position to have to ask these parents that work hard everyday to give their children a good life and then get smacked in the back of the back to get more out of you because our distinguished mayor cant see that we all know that the taxes are really much higher than what they tell you. Bus fee’s, sports fee’s, insurance for chromebooks, pen’s and paper since they schools have none. Even sometimes not enough books for every student and don’t think you can actually take the book home to rea it…Pull back some of the layers and see what the real deal is in Peabody…Oh by the way, the high school is still a level 3 and families aren’t staying here now because of it…Even our elected officials don’t have all their children in our schools but they will make decisions everyday for yours and mine.

      • O....U....T...... June 14, 2017 at 3:02 pm #

        I will agree with 1 of your points, the rest are garbage slung at the Mayor for no reason. Where I agree with you is on our elected officials not sending their kids to Peabody High. It is a huge a issue. Solution there? Vote them the F OUT! I fully plan on doing that if at all possible. If the school system isn’t good enough for you to send your kids to, see ya! Your not good enough to be on the school committee and to be making choices for the families that DO chose to send their kids here. GET OUT!

  12. Anonymous June 14, 2017 at 5:25 pm #

    Nobody can hear you. Nobody cares about you. Nothing will come of this.

  13. Ran out of Money Long Ago June 14, 2017 at 10:06 pm #


    Just reviewed the city 2016 wages: Teachers salaries PVMHS $93K. Carroll Elementary, $95K, Welch $92k,$94.8K, South $99K, Brown $89.5K, West $91K, McCarthy $90K.

    Hope they are enjoying their summer vacations. School’s out.

    Expect my taxes to go up another $400 this year too. Heck, I will have to go back into hock and refinance my house to pay for taxes. Now, Is that affordable housing? Can’t wait for the bubble to burst again.

    House values go up. Pay checks go down.

    • O....U....T...... June 15, 2017 at 7:47 am #

      As usual, facts are incorrect. By what I can see here there are maybe 2 rank/file teachers. I see Supers, Asst. Supers, HS/MS Principles, HS Deans, MS Housemasters, Department heads/Specialists, AD.

      • Ran out of Money Long Ago June 15, 2017 at 2:44 pm #

        Seen it, Read it. But dig through the minutia and the facts are: With step raises and other incentives the average Peabody teachers’ salary is $80K City employees salaries is public record so: See for yourself. Ask your public official to post the public employee salaries and OPEN your eyes!! Could continue but I am looking over the new city budget. Suggest you watch city cable TV tonight for the Mayor’s Dance on the budget.

  14. Ran out of Money Long Ago June 15, 2017 at 10:11 pm #

    Watching the City budget hearing tonight. Surprise our taxes are going up. Read between the lines, even with $485K in new taxes from new commercial properties (pg. 16 of the Mayor’s presentation) Pg. 17 of the Mayor’s budget presentation shows a tax DECREASE of $100K for the overall city commercial properties.

    The city property taxes are going by $2.46 Million Residential property taxes are going UP $2.56Million.

    So Bob… Your argument for bringing in more commercial growth doesn’t hold water.

    More tax breaks for businesses again.

  15. anonymous June 16, 2017 at 5:12 pm #

    Here comes another big tax increase brought to you buy the Mayor. Here’s the list of councilors who voted for it. Walsh, Gould, Mcginn, Turco, Saslaw, Charest, Gravel and Moutsulos. When my taxes go up it makes me feel good we’re the lowest in the area. I watched a little of the meeting and had to shut it off. They all need to go.

  16. taxpayerseekingemployment June 17, 2017 at 7:12 am #

    I am beefing up my resume to apply for the ordinance code enforcement officer. CEO of Peabody. Not sure I’m qualified though to tell people to turn off their hose and count to 13 (cars in a lot) hopefully they don’t go over.

  17. anonymous June 19, 2017 at 9:32 am #

    Why does the city need a code enforcement officer? Sounds like Mr. Turco wants to go around the city and fine every resident. Only in Peabody do they raise our taxes and then go and create bogus positions for one of their friends. Thank ward one councilor Turco for sticking it to the tax payers again.

    • Anonymous October 31, 2017 at 2:38 pm #

      Perhaps to do something about the horrible way in which landlords in the city manage their properties? It already cost one fire fighter his life a couple years back and it’s an ongoing – perhaps increasing – problem in and around the downtown area.

  18. anonymous June 19, 2017 at 12:19 pm #

    Hey Bob, which ex politician or his or her family member is going to get that job? Any guesses out there?

  19. anonymous June 19, 2017 at 3:16 pm #

    let me guess……Gamache

    • Hack of the Day June 19, 2017 at 9:21 pm #

      just saw gamache driving by in a DPW truck today so he’s already on the payroll… so let the guessing game continue. (sung to the tune of Community Auditions “Star of the Day…who will it be…) Hack of the day, who will it be, it’s up to YOU to tell ME who will be Hack of the Day.

  20. anonymous June 20, 2017 at 8:00 am #

    how about a recently retired school committee member. His son in law is already on the city payroll.

  21. Anonymous August 2, 2017 at 3:00 pm #

    So let me get this straight. The will fighting for teaching and para positions but the city can literally blow up our tax money in fireworks? How is this even allowed? This guy wants to be the good guy but not the one to actually fix the real issues of this city. This city is becoming more of a joke!

  22. Anonymous September 7, 2017 at 8:53 am #

    Are you going to post about the debate last night? It did not surprise me they gave Teddy an “A”. No one will cross him and this is exactly why they all showed my none of them are qualified to represent ward 6. Teddy is no more than a B/B-. He has a lot of work before he would ever be considered for the A.

  23. Anonymous October 9, 2017 at 11:58 am #

    I really hope you push hard on the current and potentially future SC candidates regarding the HS level 3 ranking. Also, the poor management of finding a full time superintendent. There has been no plan to fix the issues of our school since Herb didn’t want to start a plan in motion? That is a bunch of garbage as far as I am concerned. They intentionally played the game to try out park to get them a grace period on the underperforming MCAS scores too. There are many parents concerned about sending their children to the HS. You should see what the application submission amount was for the Regional Voc for last year. I can tell you it is going to be even higher this year.

  24. Anonymous October 25, 2017 at 9:08 am #

    so they announced the candidates for SC and shocking that somehow now Kara is a viable contender and she hasn’t even started her doctorate? Also funny is that now they will do interviews next month before any of the potentially new candidates that get elected have a say in the process…This city is such a joke. If they pick her out of the other candidates be expected to see our schools in receivership!!!

  25. Anon123 October 26, 2017 at 6:43 pm #

    Cara murtagh is a finalist for Peabody superintendent! Who could have guessed??? Only anyone who has lived here more than 10 years. Looks like the master plan is all falling into place.
    Step 1: Herbie for interim
    Step 2: a sham of a “nationwide search” for the next super in 2016-2017.
    Step 3: wait until all the highly qualified candidates get offers elsewhere, then offer them a job here
    Step 4: pretend that “poor Peabody” loses out again, since all of the potential candidates have found other jobs. Offer the job to herbie, our savior , (I Actually remember the Salem news referring to him as Moses)
    Step 5: groom cara another year, and let her play savior in 2017-2018
    Put them all together and what do you get??? A perpetual level 3 school system!!

  26. Weed be Gone October 28, 2017 at 5:55 pm #

    Haven’t read this piece for a number of weeks (months). Just read in the Lynn Daily Item that our city is giving away Peabody taxpayers’ money to revitalize downtown. With all the banks downtown don’t they know a good business deal when they see one? But of course they are NOT giving away “FREE” money. We lost on the “hotel” moving downtown. I guess we can’t lose when we ( the Peabody taxpayers) give away money (grants) with no strings attached. Seed money does grow WEEDS you know! Anyone got a bottle of “Weed-be-gone”? We will need it!!

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