By Dustin Luca
---- — Take a good look at Andover Village Square.
By this time next summer, owners of the mixed-use, micro-community downtown predict it will look a whole lot different.
The owners — Lincoln Essex OAV, a partnership of area property owners including state Sen. Barry Finegold, D-Andover; area residents John Fenton and Scott Jameson, among others — are about to sink another $2 million into upgrading the complex at 89-93 Main St.
The improvements are aimed at building back activity within the mix of retail, office and residential space, where occupancy has dropped off in recent months.
Mad Maggie’s Ice Cream, which for a year had been planning to open up shop at Andover Village, is one of the latest businesses to part ways with the site. (See related story)
A walk through Andover Village finds a number of empty storefronts and spaces on the ground level with paper covering the windows. Signs announcing businesses have moved and directing customers to new locations hang from some of the doors.
Yet, all is not quiet.
The property’s two longtime anchors — Andover Bookstore and Lantern Brunch — are still open and thriving. And there’s plenty of traffic at the rear of the complex, which is home to a mix of salons, retail shops and professional offices.
One of Andover Village’s newest tenants — Pink Tree Sweets, a bakery that looks out into the courtyard — is optimistic about the future.
“We hope more tenants come soon,” owner Annie Wu said. “We hope more traffic comes this way, because a lot of people go to the outer places of the park.”
The owner’s plans to create a new, vibrant interior courtyard are part of what attracted Wu to Andover Village.
Conceptual drawings show tables for outside dining, a fire pit and more right outside Wu’s front door. She envisions live music entertaining visitors in the future, too.
Fenton hopes to soon turn those visions into reality.
Two years ago, Fenton together with Finegold purchased what was then Olde Andover Village for $7.4 million. The group has since sunk $1.5 million into the property for cosmetic improvements and repairs.
Now, another $2 million in investments will increase the number of apartments from eight to 14 and upgrade the electrical and heating and cooling systems.
Plans call for updating the complex’s central plaza and courtyard and adding an outdoor dining patio to the front of the property along Main Street, Fenton said.
In all, the allotted restaurant space in the complex would increase from 805 to 15,228 square feet and the retail space would almost double. Residential space would increase by 67 percent. As a result, there will be little to no space for personal service and educational establishments, according to the plans.
One of the owners’ main goals is to attract a major restaurant to the high-profile, front north corner of the property, the space once occupied by Fred C. Church Insurance, which has relocated to the second floor.
“That’s really the focal point of our efforts,” Fenton said.
Ideally, the restaurant would also operate an outdoor dining patio, he said. If approved, the patio would run between the building’s outer northern edge and the neighboring municipal parking lot.
“At the end of the day, what we’re trying to do is bring another anchor downtown and have another reason for people to walk up here, go to the bookstore, grab a bite to eat ... look for any little reason to come here and enjoy the day,” Fenton said. “Andover doesn’t have an urban park setting and we’re hoping this can be that.”
As the owners work toward that, there’s plenty already going on behind the scenes as crews seek to ready the site to market to restaurants, retail stores and service businesses.
“The spots you see that are papered up, there is renovation going on there for future occupancy of future tenants,” Fenton said.