ANDOVER — Toddlers and teenagers arriving for art classes on the lower level … couples heading to the main level for a European-style dinner of steak and fish … home buyers excitedly going upstairs to meet with their attorneys to close on their new homes … This diverse range of people will be coming soon to 27 Main St. in downtown Andover, a building that is being transformed and will open in late spring.
Formerly the Draper Block, the building was purchased several years ago from TD Bank by Paul Kneeland and Tom Belhumeur, principals of Touchdown LLC. As project developers, they engaged Channel Building Company of Wilmington for design and construction of the 31,000 square feet of mixed-use commercial space on three levels.
“This is a major development and improvement to the heart of downtown Andover,” said John Pearson, Channel’s project architect. “The design of 27 Main St. creates a new identity and vitality at a significant address in Andover center.”
Pearson and the design team, headed by Greg Wiech, Channel’s design director, have expanded the existing elevated terrace at the building front and created a new front door by means of new stairs, clad in porcelain tile, up from the sidewalk and a new two-story projecting bay above the stairs. The restaurant front on the main floor will feature a movable glass wall opening onto the elevated terrace. Fabric awnings will extend over the terrace, and painted steel brackets and tubes can be used for hanging planters and decorative treatments.
“Excited” is the word used by each of the three tenants who have already contracted to move into the building, and space is still available for additional tenants.
“It’s highly unique. It’s going to raise the bar for other developers in downtown Andover,” said Jack O’Donohue, managing partner of Touchstone Closing, the law firm that will occupy 7,000 square feet on the upper level.
Moving from his current offices across the street, “it was important for us to stay in downtown Andover and to be on one floor. How happy we are to be working with Channel to create our new space.”
New to Andover will be Kidcasso, which conducts fine arts classes for children “from high chair to high school,” according to Laura-Marie Small, Kidcasso founder and art educator. “It’s a really cool building, and we’re a business that’s grounded in being part of the downtown community.”
Kidcasso has operated in Newton and Wakefield for the past 12 years and will be relocating from its current temporary location on Park Street in Andover.
“We’re excited for this opportunity for growth and a greater connection,” she said.
The third tenant is very familiar to those who frequent downtown Andover. Paul LaRosa, chef and owner of LaRosa’s, is planning to launch another addition to the restaurant scene. While still running LaRosa’s on Barnard Street, his new European-style restaurant will be located on the main level of 27 Main St. and will feature an Italian and French flair to steaks and fish, white tablecloths, three-season dining on the elevated terrace overlooking Main Street, and valet parking on weekends. LaRosa hopes Andover residents will no longer have to travel to Boston or Burlington for fine dining.
“I like to be a part of everything in town,” he said.
The 27 Main St. building is another chapter in Channel Building Company’s long history and impact on downtown Andover. Founded by Robert Webster in the 1960s as a new construction company, Channel has renovated the Musgrove Building at 2 Elm Square, the Barnard Building at 10-16 Main St., and multiple buildings along both sides of Main Street.
Regarding the current project at 27 Main St., Jerry Diorio, Channel’s chief operations officer, said, “We’re adding pizzazz to Main Street. The view from the second floor windows is spectacular.”
One challenge of the current project was the tight time schedule, especially affected by September’s gas catastrophe.
“We needed heat to do the work, and we had to relocate gas meters to make the renovations,” Diorio said, adding that there are hidden surprises in every building renovation. “The guts of the building are now brand new, including heating and cooling systems, electrical work, gas, stone, and stainless steel railings.”
Supervising the work is Tom Callahan, senior project superintendent.
“The Town of Andover was great to work with,” said Diorio. “We really appreciate the inspectional services, headed by Chris Clemente, building commissioner. They were so helpful.”
The space at 27 Main St. has a history with names familiar to longtime residents. The site originally contained the Barnard Building, the Draper Building and the Pettinghill-Swift Building. Some of the businesses previously on the site include Michael Jays dress shop, Colpitt’s Travel, Personal Touch gift shop, the Taylor Shop, Andover Savings Bank, Nazarian’s Jewelry, and Walden Books.
Paul Kneeland, developer and Channel Building Company president, concluded, “The transformation is awesome, when you compare what we started with and what we’ve got.”