Salem News Building (and adjacent areas)

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Revised 5/25/2006

New News 3/1/2006. RCG,. the developers of the Salem Laundry Building Condominiums, are in the preliminary stages of planning for developing the site, which reportedly includes the old Salem Evening News building site, Delande Lighting building site, the city owned parking lot (Klopp Alley) and a portion of the Marketplace..  
A notification from the Mayor's office: "There is a press conference scheduled for this Thursday, (March 2, 2006) at 3 p.m. at the Edgewater Cafe about a very, very, very preliminary proposal for development on the old Salem Evening News building site, Delande Lighting building site, the city owned parking lot (Klopp Alley) and a portion of the Marketplace. All are welcome to attend."  
The 3/3/2006 information below is "very preliminary" and subject to changes and modifications. (PDF files). Images courtesy RCG.  
Existing Conditions Site Plan  
Proposed Site Plan  
View to North - Old Town Hall at center rear  
View to south -west  
The following is the 90 page presentation given at the public meeting 5/22/2006 at 120 Washington Street  
Site Analysis 5/22/2006 by Urban Design Team (pdf file)  

Salem News Article 3/3/2006 (courtesy Salem News):

Large development proposed for Salem's downtown

By Tom Dalton
Staff writer

SALEM — A Somerville company has unveiled one of the most ambitious downtown development plans in recent history — an almost complete makeover of an entire city block.
The real estate firm RCG wants to turn a largely vacant former newspaper plant and an underused urban marketplace into a sprawling condominium complex with three large buildings, upscale retail stores, an outdoor courtyard and underground parking.
The estimated $80 million project would include up to 180 residential condominiums and as many as 500 parking spaces. The developer hopes to start construction in spring 2007.
The downtown property eyed by the developer includes the former Salem News building and the city's historic marketplace, a block bordered by Washington, Front, Lafayette and New Derby streets.
It would take six to 10 years to build, the developer said.
"The market is strong in Salem but not so robust we can say we're going to build the whole thing all at once," RCG principal Alex Steinbergh said yesterday to a standing-room-only crowd in the Edgewater Café.
The dramatic announcement was greeted with both enthusiasm and caution. Mayor Kim Driscoll stressed that this is not a final plan, only a concept and the beginning of what will be a lengthy "discussion" between the city and developer.
While the project could bring life to a long-dormant city block and help solve the city's nagging parking problems, it also is laced with challenges and questions. The developer will have to acquire city land — the marketplace and parking lots — figure out how to construct two levels of underground parking and convince the community that this large project can fit along the cobblestone Front Street in the shadow of historic Old Town Hall.
"While I'm extremely excited to begin this discussion, I really want to stress it is the beginning," Driscoll said. She added, however, that RCG's interest is one more positive sign for the city.
"I'm thrilled about what this project says about our downtown ..." she said. "The downtown of Salem is really at a rebirth."
RCG is completing the Derby Lofts condominium redevelopment next door at the former Salem Laundry building. While it does not own any of the property on the Salem News block, it has purchase-and-sale agreements signed with the owner of the Salem News property and with the owner of the Delande Lighting building, Steinbergh said.
The developer will have to negotiate with the Salem Redevelopment Authority and other city entities to acquire the marketplace and city parking lots on Klop Alley and at the corner of Front and Lafayette streets.
One of the many challenges will be constructing a two-level underground garage with up to 500 parking spaces — almost half for public parking. RCG has done some initial testing that shows it's feasible, Steinbergh said.
The project will be done in phases, Steinbergh said, starting at the corner of Washington and New Derby streets.
Although it is impossible to say how long it will take to secure city permits, the developer hopes to start construction next year.
Under the current plan, Delande Lighting and the former Salem News building and printing plant would be demolished and replaced with new buildings. Another condo/retail building would go up at the corner of Front and Lafayette streets. The three main buildings would be five and six stories tall.
The popular restaurants on the block, Edgewater Café and A Passage to India, are expected to stay, Steinbergh said.
The struggling marketplace would become a large courtyard under this plan with seasonal vendors, outside dining and maybe even a performance space.
The only properties left untouched by the development would be the ones RCG doesn't control — Salem Fire Department headquarters and two buildings on Front Street, the Jewish Federation of the North Shore and a building next door with law offices.
The developer was asked lots of questions about the impact the project will have on existing businesses, the amount and kind of parking planned and the type of retail stores envisioned. Steinbergh said he has been surprised by the success at Derby Lofts, which has leased space to a bookstore and a furniture store and other tenants. He said he hopes that success will extend across the street.
The current proposals projects 160 to 180 condominiums selling for between $350,000 and $550,000, which are similar to the prices at Derby Lofts. If there is a lot of retail and office interest, Steinbergh said they may reduce the number of residential condos. He said he hopes to attract a speciality food store, a fitness center and other businesses.

Building for the future
* Three buildings with a total of 160-180 condominiums
* Two levels of underground parking with up to 500 spaces
* Upscale retail shops
* Courtyard with outdoor dining, seasonal vendors
* Construction in four phases over six to 10 years


Salem News Article 3/7/2006 (courtesy Salem News):

Developer bets heavily on Salem's future

RCG,a real estate development firm, proposes to redevelop almost this entire city block, shown facing New Derby Street in this artist's rendering.
By Tom Dalton
Staff writer

SALEM — Alex Steinbergh has a favorite cartoon. t shows a group of Indians standing on the shore greeti g the Pilgrims as they land at Plymouth Rock. The Indi n leader says to the Pilgrims: "Are you planning n spending the night
That same question could have been asked of Steinbergh four years ago when he arrived in Salem looking to buy a commercial property. He didn't like the building he was shown but perked up when a local real estate agent took him past the old Salem Laundry building, a rickety, largely vacant structure on Derby Street.
"That's exactly the type of building I'm looking for,'" Steinbergh told Julianna Tache, the Realtor who drove him around that day.
Steinbergh liked the Salem Laundry building so much he decided to spend the night — and then some.
His Somerville development company, RCG, not only bought the Salem Laundry but spent $17 million converting it into Derby Lofts — a six-story building with 54 condominiums that held its grand opening this winter.
RCG then crossed the street to buy the former Dracula's Castle at 90 Lafayette St., where it wants to erect another six-story building with 30 condos. That project went before the city's Planning Board last week.
Over the past few months, RCG signed purchase-and-sale agreements for two more properties in the downtown, Delande Lighting and the former Salem News plant. On Thursday, the Somerville real estate developer unveiled an ambitious, $80 million plan to build 160 to 180 condos and 500 underground parking spaces on the old Salem News block.
Talk about a whirlwind romance.
In four short years, RCG has swept a good chunk of the city off its feet. And it is already talking to another property owner about buying other large downtown tracts.
"We'll be in Salem as long as we're wanted," said Steinbergh, one of the founders of RCG. "I think that's the major point. If we're not wanted, we won't be there."
Steinbergh, 65, is an amateur wrestler — he took part in a world age-group championship a decade ago — with an MBA from Harvard. He began as a management consultant in the energy field and, over several decades, has shifted most of his attention to real estate development.
RCG did its first project in 1989, Cambridgeport Commons, a 100-condo development with underground parking. As the real estate market heated up, so has the firm. It has done 11 projects since 2001, including three in neighboring Lynn.
High on Salem
RCG has been highly successful in Lynn, selling out two projects before they were completed. Despite the firm's clear interest in Salem, it has had a rougher time here. The company ran into lots of problems on Derby Lofts — dumping its construction firm at one point — but remains bullish on the city.
"Salem is an incredible place," said Steinbergh, who rattled off the names of new developments and restaurants with the familiarity of a native son. "I guess I've always had some interest in Salem, but Salem for a long time had a reputation of not being a good place to invest."
That has changed in recent years, he said, with the Peabody Essex Museum's expansion, the construction of the Jefferson at Salem Station apartments at the former Parker Brothers site, the arrival of a new hotel on Pickering Wharf and the creation of about 100 new downtown condos.
But Steinbergh also knows that the latest project, which calls for construction of three large buildings at the site of the former Salem News plant and the city's marketplace, presents great challenges. For starters, RCG has to acquire several pieces of city property, including the marketplace and two parking lots.
"I think the Salem News project is one of the more ambitious ones we've undertaken," he said.
The development will be done in phases over six to 10 years.
RCG is betting on Salem because it appears to be a magnet for baby boomers. It has culture, fine dining, a waterfront and transportation to Boston.
"We feel that Salem will be a natural place for North Shore retirees to want to live," Steinbergh said.
In just four years, RCG has gained a foothold in Salem. It will take time, however, to find out what kind of reception this new proposal will get and how big the foothold will be.
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