Local Government and Politics, News

Peabody opens bids for historic mansion at $750K

The historic O'Shea mansion in Peabody (Owen O'Rourke)

PEABODY — Developers have less than three weeks to make an offer on the city-owned O’Shea Mansion on Washington Street.

Mayor Edward A. Bettencourt Jr. has issued a request for proposals (RFP) on the 10,000-square-foot Colonial and its 3,000-square-foot carriage house.

Bidding starts at $750,000. Preferred uses include a restaurant, or other retail, artist workspaces, a gallery that would be open to the public, and a limited number of apartments.

Under the terms of the RFP, City Hall will consider proposals which include up to four 750-square-foot apartments in the carriage house. Submissions for all housing will be rejected, the city said.

The new owner will be encouraged to renovate the prominent building in keeping with historic preservation guidelines because it is located in the Washington Street National Register Historic District.

The RFP tells potential buyers the mansion was awarded an all-alcohol license by the Legislature in 2014, and bidders should take this into consideration when making an offer.

The project will be subject to extensive public review, along with meeting provisions of the city’s Historical Commission, throughout the design, permitting and construction phases.

Thomas O’Shea, a wealthy manufacturer, built the home on the site of the former Bell Tavern. That’s the spot where minutemen gathered before the march to the Battle of Lexington and Concord. The death of several minutemen during the battle is commemorated at a monument at the corner of Sewall Street.

If the city finds a buyer, it will put an end to a saga that began in 2015 when Empire Design & Development bought the property for $350,000.

Former owner Michael Corsetti planned to raze the antique home and replace it with apartments and shops. But the city seized the 124-year-old mansion by eminent domain the following year to prevent its demolition. Corsetti received $425,000 from the city for taking the property, $75,000 more than he paid for it.

The mayor then sought a buyer who would preserve the multi-story home and transform it into a centerpiece with office space, restaurant, and a police substation.

But the Gloucester developer filed suit in Essex Superior Court seeking $1.8 million in damages, alleging the city underpaid him. A second lawsuit, in U.S. District Court, alleged the city’s efforts to undermine Corsetti’s purchase violated his civil rights.

After a judge refused to dismiss the case, the city negotiated a settlement.

Last fall, the City Council approved a cash payment of $825,000. In total, the city is on the hook for $1.25 million, or more than three times what Corsetti paid for the property.

The application deadline is Monday, April 8 at noon.


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