4 bidders seek to buy Briscoe

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Plans call for transformation of historic building in Beverly

BEVERLY – The city has received four offers to buy the former Briscoe Middle School and transform the historic building into a place for people to live, work and play.

All of the offers include some type of housing in combination with a variety of creative uses, including artist studios, a brewery, and a laundry with a cafe.

The city required the preservation of the building, so there will be no demolition. The offers to buy it range from a high of $4 million to a low of $1. One of the proposals includes a partnership with the YMCA to use Briscoe’s gymnasium, while another proposes teaming with North Shore Music Theatre to run the auditorium.

All of the proposals would maintain the open spaces in front and behind the building.

The highest bid in terms of the purchase price – $4 million – was made by 20Mission, a San Francisco-based company that proposed turning the building into a “co-living facility, public venue and business incubator.”

Its project would include housing for 200 residents, a brewery, laundry services with a cafe and co-working space, a partnership with the Heroic Hearts Project for veterans, and a photography and videography studio.

The company said rental prices would be attractive to recent graduates from the surrounding area “looking to live with like-minded people and build a successful business.”

20Mission was founded in 2012 and turned a former hotel in San Francisco into a live/work space that has become “a key part of the San Francisco tech scene,” according to the proposal. It said the Beverly location would provide a “landing space for Silicon Valley entrepreneurs moving east.”

Another proposal came from Harborlight Community Partners, a Beverly-based affordable housing nonprofit. Harborlight’s project would create 85 affordable apartments for seniors and work space that could be leased to artists. The organization would also partner with North Shore Music Theater to run Briscoe’s auditorium/theater.

In his letter to the city proposing the project, Harborlight Community Partners Executive Director Andrew DeFranza said that when he mentioned the project to his oldest daughter, who was in the last sixth-grade class ever at Briscoe, “she implored me to ‘Save the theater, Dad!‘”

WinnDevelopment of Boston proposed turning Briscoe into a senior residential housing with 79 units and on-site support services, while the existing gym and auditorium would be used by the YMCA of the North Shore. The second floor of the auditorium would be closed off, reducing seating to about 800 on the first floor.

In a letter included in the proposal, Christopher Lovasco, president and CEO of the YMCA of the North Shore, said the Briscoe site would be an “ideal replacement” for the YMCA’s Cabot Street location, which it plans to turn into 24 affordable housing units. Lovasco also said the Y would use the auditorium for its theater arts program, which serves nearly 400 children.

A proposal by the nonprofit Miranda’s Hearth calls for repurposing the building into a large-scale community arts center. The project would create live/work housing for artists, co-working space, commercial office space, and publicly available programming in the auditorium.

The Miranda’s Hearth proposal included letters of support from City Council President Paul Guanci, Beverly Main Streets Executive Director Gin Wallace, Montserrat College of Art President Kurt Steinberg, and The Cabot Executive Director Casey Soward.

Soward said turning Briscoe into a community arts center is an opportunity for the city “to put a stake in the ground as the leading regional center for arts and culture on the North Shore, a position that the City now uniquely finds itself in a position to take advantage of.”

Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or pleighton@salemnews.com.