Local Government and Politics, News

Proposed land purchase could make George Peabody proud

PEABODY — A series of business moves in the downtown will create open space and a home for a statue of 19th century philanthropist and businessman George Peabody, according to the mayor.

Mayor Edward A. Bettencourt Jr. is proposing the city buy 10 Lowell St., the current site of Brodie’s Pub and the NexMex Thing restaurant, for $425,000 from Northfield Properties.

The purchase will be paid for with $250,000 from the city’s sale of real estate account and $180,000 from the Community Preservation Committee (CPC). Bettencourt said the purchase will have no impact on the city’s tax rate.

“Following the purchase and the already planned relocation of the current businesses (Brodies, The NexMex Thing), the intention is to demolish and remove the existing building and maintain the property as open space,” Bettencourt wrote in a letter to the City Council requesting a hearing before its finance committee. “Among the benefits of this action is the continued beautification of the area, the planned construction and installation of the George Peabody statue and flood mitigation measures to a site that has historically experienced flooding.”

The CPC accepted the funding request at its meeting Tuesday night, according to committee chair Michael Schulze.

“I’ve taken a look at it and (the proposal) seems to be in order,” said Schulze.

There are certain guidelines a project has to meet to be eligible for community preservation funds, Schulze said.

“It is creating open space and recreation, it’s not finding old space, it’s creating it,” he said. In addition, the project meets the guideline of having an additional funding source besides CPC money, which would be the city’s sale of property account.

Projects approved by the CPC go to the City Council for funding approval.

Plans for the George Peabody statue have not formally been presented to the CPC, but Schulze said he’s had discussions with Bettencourt about it.

According to Schulze, the statue will be of a young, seated George Peabody that will include a place for people to sit next to the statue.

Bettencourt said CPC funds will likely be used for the Peabody statue, as well, but added that plans for that are still in the early stages. A statue honoring Peabody at that location would be a fitting tribute, according to the mayor.

“We hope we can move forward with the project next year along with the landscaping and flood mitigation efforts,” said Bettencourt.

Peabody was born in South Danvers (now Peabody) in 1795 and went on to make his fortune in international finance. One of the founders of modern philanthropy, Peabody gave his first grants in the 1850s to Danvers and Peabody and went on to endow 22 educational institutions during his lifetime.

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