The same land Haverhill city councilors expected the city to buy last spring is now part of a proposed privately owned 40-apartment project near the Merrimack River in Bradford.
Officials confirmed today the city backed out of buying the former Pan Am Railways parcel behind 2 South Grove St., and will have to adjust its proposed public rail trail between Crescent Yacht Club and the former Haverhill Paperboard. Community Development Division Director Andrew K. Herlihy told WHAV technical issues led the city not to buy the land.
“It was going to be challenging for the city to get those things done in the timeframe that we had. At the same time, however, we had concerns about whether we truly wanted to own the railroad right of way as it veers away from the river and runs into… a corridor that is aesthetically less pleasing than it would be if you were right along the riverfront,” Herlihy said.
As WHAV reported last April, councilors approved spending $60,000 to match a developer’s offer for the property.
Herlihy added it is unknown if the rail trail in that area will instead run closer to the riverfront or along neighborhood streets toward the Haverhill Paperboard site. He said it’s a long way ahead.
“We have control of the right of way from after the Haverhill Paperboard site to the Groveland line. Our challenge is to take the future of this rail trail from the yacht club to the other side of the Haverhill Paperboard property. And there’s a couple different ways to get there, whether we run it along the river or run it down the tracks or down city streets. It could be anyone of those three,” Herlihy said.
Developer J and J Realty and Trustee James A. Allen proposed renovating existing commercial buildings on lots at 0-2 South Grove St. into 40 market-rate rental apartments. Haverhill City councilors Tuesday scheduled a public hearing for the proposed project Feb. 14. Herlihy did not rule out cooperation, as proposed in documents from the developer, in granting public access to the railbed within the property.
“Obviously, if the city acquires the land there’s certain benefits and risks associated to the city for that, so we have to evaluate these decision carefully. We’re looking at all options. We’re generally supportive of Mr. Allen
Herlihy added, about half the council’s $60,000 appropriation was used to purchase two other pieces to the abandoned rail bed while the remaining money is held in reserve as “unused capital.”
“What we decided to do instead, for far less money, is we acquired a few smaller parcels west of that portion of land. That provides some key leverage for us to get by other parcels. It’s sort of like putting a jigsaw puzzle together,” he said.
Allen, through Haverhill Attorney Robert D. Harb, filed an application Nov. 23 for council approval of a plan to renovate existing commercial structures, on a 1.4 acre site at 0-2 South Grove St., into 26 two-bedroom and 14 one-bedroom rental housing units. It also requests the council waive a moderate-income, or affordable housing, requirement for the proposed project.