SWAMPSCOTT — More than five months after the 555 Essex St. lot in Vinnin Square was sold to Orion Swampscott Shop LLC for $18.55 million, four companies purchased the 11-acre lot for $22.53 million with the intention of bringing the commercial hub “into the 21st century.”
In 1992, Swampscott developer Andrew Rose tore down the original indoor mall at the lot to create an outdoor shopping center. Rose said Stop & Shop, one of the strip’s main businesses, financed the mall’s redevelopment under the condition that Rose sell the parcel to Stop & Shop for $2.5 million.
More than 30 years after the sale, Rose, who manages one of the four companies that purchased the lot, said he jumped on the opportunity to buy it back.
“I’ve always been trying to acquire the Stop & Shop over the years, but I never could. The people that just bought it, Orion, paid like $4 million less than me, you know, bought a package from Stop & Shop and got a great price,” Rose said. “When they agreed to sell this one to me, I paid a premium. Not because it’s worth it, but it’s only worth it to me as the adjacent stakeholder and the opportunity to possibly do a bigger project.”
In May, Town Hall voted to rezone the Vinnin Square district to allow mixed-use commercial and residential real estate.
Proponents of the change, such as Select Board members David Grishman and Peter Spellios, argued that the change would help the town grow its commercial tax base and bring it closer to compliance under Section 3A, a state law requiring municipalities in close proximity to MBTA stations to build a certain amount of multi-family housing.
Rose, who acquired the lot with three tenants-in-common, said he has been working with the Town of Swampscott as it creates design guidelines for the area’s development. Generally, he said he hopes to turn the lot into a modern hub equipped with retail space, commercial businesses, and apartments.
“We’re looking to see a project similar to Woburn (Village) or MarketStreet in Lynnfield,” Rose said. “More of a lifestyle center with a mixed use, than just an old-fashioned grocery-anchored strip mall.”
Although the town is still developing the lot’s specific design guidelines, Planning Board Chair Angela Ippolito said in May that the outdoor mall-like space would comprise mixed-use complexes with retail ground floors and 250 housing units. The rezoning, she estimated, would increase the annual revenue earned from the area from roughly $1.62 million to $2.2 million.
The public will weigh in on the redevelopment project during the town’s Reimagining Vinnin Square event on Aug. 29 at the Swampscott High School auditorium. Feedback garnered from the event will help the Planning Board and Metropolitan Area Planning Council map the project’s architectural, landscape, and pedestrian elements.
Rose said the project should take about five years to complete.
“We’ve always wanted to own the entire thing. We got the opportunity to buy it back, and that unlocks the potential to continue along the mutual path of what the town envisions,” he said.