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Marian Court’s new owners want to build condos for seniors at the Swampscott site

SWAMPSCOTT — Transforming White Court, the former Marian Court College, into age-restricted condominiums is the plan for a team of Swampscott developers, who purchased the property last week.

The 28-room, oceanfront mansion on Littles Point Road was purchased by CC White Court LLC, an entity of Centercorp Retail Properties, last Monday for $2.75 million, according to the Essex District Registry of Deeds.

The 6.2-acre property, which was acquired from the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas Northeast Community, Inc., is assessed at $5.8 million and includes two buildings and green space. It was built in 1895 and previously served as the Summer White House for President Calvin Coolidge.

Centercorp Principals Andrew Rose and Mark Klaman, who live in town, plan on redeveloping the property into 18 oceanfront condominiums. The units, which will be restricted to those 55 and older, will be priced at $2.25 million and will be somewhere between 2,000 and 2,500 square feet, Klaman said.

Klaman said their two other partners are Swampscott residents, Nick Meninno, of Meninno Construction and Bruce Paradise, of Paradise Construction.

Klaman said the existing White Court mansion will be converted into six condominiums and two more buildings on either side of it will have six condominiums each. He said the units will be two- to three-bedrooms and the buildings will be attached by a large underground garage.

He said each building will have three levels, with two units per floor — all units will be one-level flats and there will be private elevator access from the garage to the condos. There will be three parking spaces per unit and the pavement will be removed and replaced with landscaping.

Klaman said there are currently add-ons on either side of the mansion that have happened over the years that have no bearing on the original building — those will be demolished and replaced with the new buildings.

“It will either be three buildings or it will look like one coordinated kind of triangle,” Klaman said. “Our vision is to rebuild these residences in basically the same location that all of the structures are now and leave all of the grounds intact so that the massive yard from the mansion all the way to the ocean will be left pristine.

“The real heritage of this site is more the grounds than anything else. To the best of our abilities, the original mansion will be preserved. It’s in really tough shape. We’re going to do everything we can to preserve as much of it as we can, but it will look the same,” he said.  

Klaman, who lives on Littles Point Road, said he became interested in acquiring the property after attending a neighborhood meeting and listening to the concerns about some other proposed uses. After discussing the idea with Rose, he said they decided to buy the property and “develop it correctly.”

“The Swampscott oceanfront is spectacular and it’s a special property that warrants redeveloping into residences as it was originally envisioned,” Klaman said. “This, we feel, is the right thing for the town and the neighborhood and we feel it will be a project of pride for Swampscott to have something of this caliber.”

There had previously been a purchase and sale agreement in place for the property by St. Paul’s Foundation, which had planned to convert the home into an Orthodox Christian monastery with an on-site brewery. Officials opposed the brewery, arguing zoning bylaws do not allow for it in the residential district where the property is located and St. Paul’s did not move forward with the purchase.

Klaman said the plan is to bring the project in for permitting in March and the construction process would probably be about 15 months. If all goes well, he said the project would be completed in a year and a half to two years.

Peter Kane, director of community development, said town officials haven’t seen the plans yet, so he couldn’t comment on exactly what permits would be required.

“At a minimum, a project that proposes multiple housing units for 55-year-olds and older would require a use special permit from the (Zoning Board of Appeals),” Kane said.

Town Administrator Sean Fitzgerald said the redevelopment plan would reflect a productive use of the property, which has sat empty for several years.

“I think it reflects a context-sensitive strategy,” Fitzgerald said. “The developers are Swampscott residents and I do think that they care about the community and will reflect a scope of effort that really takes into consideration some of the concerns of both the neighborhood and also the community. I think that will be well-received.”

The town had also been interested in purchasing White Court, which would have been for public use.

“I’m very pleased that the developers will preserve the historic White Court mansion,” said Naomi Dreeben, chairwoman of the Board of Selectmen. “While I would have preferred a public use for the property, the grand lawn and building remaining intact are a win for Swampscott.”

Historians say Coolidge chose Swampscott as a vacation spot. The former Massachusetts governor liked the waterfront location a few miles from Beacon Hill. Typically, he and First Lady Grace Coolidge stayed the summer.

Centercorp, the owner of more than a dozen North Shore strip malls, also redeveloped the Swampscott Mall in Vinnin Square more than 30 years ago.

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