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2.18.14 Long-vacant Woolworth Property in Haverhill to Become Riverfront Campus/Business/Shops

 Harbor Place in Haverhill, MA

The Eagle-Tribune (joyfully) reported that the Woolworth building in Haverhill – vacant for more than 40 years – will now have a dramatic renaissance.  It will become home to a satellite campus for UMass Lowell and a home for businesses such as restaurants and stores overlooking the Merrimack River.

Demolition of the dilapidated Woolworth building is scheduled for late spring and will herald the start of major redevelopment of the eastern gateway to downtown, located on the corner of Merrimack Street and Main Street (Route 125).

The Woolworth building is being replaced by several mixed-use buildings along the river, the first of which will be a seven-story development called Harbor Place, will be a satellite campus for UMass Lowell.  The college plans to occupy the second and third floors of the new, glass-enclosed building, UMass Lowell Chancellor Martin Meehan said.

Restaurants and retails shops will occupy the first floor of Harbor Place and there will be office space on upper floors, said Lisa Alberghini, president of the Planning Office for Urban Affairs.  Alberghini said construction of the $18 million building is expected to begin in the fall and take 18 to 24 months. The job is expected to generate about 150 construction jobs, according to a press release about the project.

The entire sweeping Merrimack Street Ventures development is likely to top $80 million, officials said. Later phases include the demolition of several more large buildings on Merrimack Street which will be replaced by mixed-use projects with ground floor retail and hundreds of condominiums and apartments on upper floors.  Other buildings to be demolished starting in the spring include the Ocasio and Newman’s Furniture buildings, as well as several more buildings heading west, city officials said.

The first phase of the project includes a pedestrian corridor to a new Merrimack River boardwalk and public plaza. The corridor and plaza are to be built on a raised platform that will allow direct access to the river while also providing underground parking. There are also plans for a public boat dock with access to the river, according to the plan.

Woolworth building in Haverhill, MA

The yellow, art deco-style Woolworth building (above) opened in 1949 and has been vacant since the former department store closed in 1969.  The redevelopment of the property will reveal views of the water that have been blocked for decades by the massive concrete flood wall that protects downtown from the river in the event of a catastrophic flood.

Read the entire Eagle-Tribune article.

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2.11.14 Seafood Company Would Bring 225 Jobs to Blackburn Park in Gloucester

 Former Good Harbor Fillet facility in Blackburn Industrial Park in Gloucester, MA

According to the Salem News, an Illinois-based seafood processor and wholesaler is moving into Blackburn Park industrial park Gloucester to operate a processing plant in the Blackburn Industrial Park.  The new facility is expected to bring 125 full-time positions, 100-plus seasonal positions and as much as $7.5 million in new capital investments to the site of the former Good Harbor Fillet plant.

The Mazzetta Company, a family-owned and operated company based in the Chicago suburb of Highland Park, is purchasing the 65,000-square-foot site at 21-29 Great Republic Ave. and plans to invest $1.5 million in improvements to the building, another $5 million on equipment and machinery necessary for its the processing line, and about $1 million on a new 8,000-square-foot tank house, according to Jim Duggan, the city’s chief administrative officer.

The Blackburn Industrial Park Economic Opportunity Area, created in 1995, consists of 22 parcels, including the site at 21-29 Great Republic Avnue.

Read the entire Salem News article.

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2.4.14 Development on Turner Hill, Ipswich

 Old Catholic Church on Turner Hill, Ipswich

The Salem News reports that that the old Catholic Church on Turner Hill in Ipswich (pictured above) will be torn down soon, which will pave the way for the final phase of the private golf and residential community to be known as The Gardens.  Proposed plans call for 10 duplex units to take the place of the former church.

Turner Hill is one of 4 historic estates in Ipswich. The Elizabethan-style mansion was built in 1903 and has been serving as a function hall and clubhouse for the country club.  Developer Ted Raymond bought the church property in 1997 and built the golf course and started the housing development. After running out of money, he sold the unfinished development to well-known developer Eyk van Otterloo for $15 million in 2007.

The developer is also proposing to finishing the other two residential sections of the property, known as The Hill and The Village.  Windover Construction has been hired to help develop the master plan for the property.  Right now, there are 14 duplex units and 14 single-family homes on the hill. Developers are proposing to build 16 more single-family homes there.

All single-family homes and condo units are considered part of the condominium association, which includes amenities such as golf, tennis courts, paddle courts, a bowling alley, swimming pool and fitness center.  There are also two restaurants on the property.

Read the entire Salem News article.

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1.7.14 Rockport Appeals FEMA Flood Insurance Maps

Bearskin Neck in Rockport, MA

The Salem News reports that Rockport town officials have begun formally appealing new Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) flood insurance rate maps and the base flood levels imposed by the federal agency.

In their appeal, conducted by Applied Coastal Research and Engineering Inc., the town states that they are “firmly of the opinion that the proposed (base flood elevations) determined by the (flood insurance survey) and shown in the preliminary (flood insurance rate maps) covering the town are scientifically and or technically incorrect.”

In Rockport, particularly, the coastal research firm proposed that FEMA’s method of determining the base flood elevations for Sandy Bay, Main Street and Bearskin Neck do not reflect the accurate topography of the area, and as a result, “greatly overestimates the level of flooding” risks for the town.

So far, Rockport is the only community on Cape Ann to appeal the FEMA flood insurance rate maps or the base flood elevation levels.  According to the article, Congressman John Tierney, whose 6th Massachusetts District includes Rockport and all of Cape Ann, has urged communities to challenge the maps, while also calling for a reform of the Biggert Waters Act of 2012.

The act requires owners of all properties with a federal mortgage and within a designated FEMA “flood hazard” to have flood insurance.  FEMA officials have conceded that the law will mean higher premium rates for some, but not all, flood insurance policy holders.

Read the entire Salem News article.

NAR site on Nationl Flood Insurance Program:

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12.10.13 North Andover Pushes for Changes in Chapter 40B Development

Former Horse Farm located at 16 Berry Street, North Andover
The North Andover Citizen reported that North Andover lawmakers, Senators Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester, and Kathleen O’Connor Ives, D-Newburyport, as well as Representatives Jim Lyons, R-Andover, and Diana DiZoglio, D-Methuen, want Chapter 40B, the state’s most powerful affordable housing law, to include permitted affordable units within town -- whether constructed or not -- towards the required affordable housing totals required by state law.

Chapter 40B allows developers to bypass local zoning restrictions if less than 10% of the community’s housing stock is considered affordable, as long as some of the new units are offered to low and moderate-income individuals.  North Andover Town Manager Andrew Maylor says that if North Andover counted every single 40B project permitted for the town towards their total, North Andover would have 9.7 percent of their total housing classified as affordable.  He added that should the hotly-contested "Riding Academy Preserve" project on Berry Street be approved, North Andover’s affordable housing total would reach 11.9%.

The Riding Academy Preserve development project, which proposed a 200 plus unit apartment complex just off of Route 114 has drawn strong opposition from local residents.  Those opposed to the project claim it’ll create more traffic hazards and put a greater strain on town resources.  Currently, according to state law, affordable housing units are only counted towards their total should they be constructed, lived in and reported as inhabited by developers.

Read the entire North Andover Citizen article.

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12.2.13 Conomo Point Tax Increases Cause Tenants to Weigh Options

According to the Gloucester Times, following a recent court decision upholding property assessments by the town, property taxes on Conomo Point, is expected to increase 300% or more between in the next year or so.

This is forcing tenants to weigh their options on continuing the lease at Conomo Point.  Town Administrator Brendhan Zubricki said the Board of Selectmen will likely take up the issue of lease rates at its next meeting.  The actual rates would likely be 3.75% of the assessed value, which is noted in the initial leases that were signed in 2011. But the judge’s decision has set the stage for those values to soar after the first year.

Read the entire Gloucester Times article.

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