Council Rejects Apartment Project at Former St. Gregory School Site

Former St. James Grammar School (St. Gregory School) at 108 Harrison St., Haverhill.

There will be no renovation for the former St. Gregory School at 108 Harrison St. after city councilors rejected a plan for more than 20 apartments on the site, 13 in the historic school building.

The City Council rejected a special permit for a Lowell development group that had committed to spend nearly $9 million to redevelop the former St. Gregory School with 13 workforce-rate apartments and construct a second building with additional units.

Miguel Scroth, the spokesman for the neighborhood group opposing the project, said the Harrison Street location sits at the intersection of several narrow streets lined with homes that sit mere feet apart. Most residents have no off-street parking, clogging the already narrow streets. The scope of the development proposed by Common Ground Development would threaten the quality of life for the area’s residents, he said.

Council President John A. Michitson cast the deciding vote and sided with the neighbors.

“The density is too great. I just can’t imagine putting 21 families or renters right in the middle of that street. I think the building is too large,” Michitson said.

He credited Common Ground with being open to changing what they could to make the project more acceptable.

“The developer has made a reasonable, honest effort to address a lot of the issues from the neighbors, Michitson said.

But the developers couldn’t do enough to persuade neighbors or the council to back the development, which included renovating the former school building in keeping with its historical character.

City councilors met Tuesday to vote on the project after giving the developer and neighbors a week to discuss possible compromises that would alleviate neighbors’ concerns.

Voting against the project were Michitson, council Vice President Melinda Barrett, Councilor Colin F. LePage and Councilor Joseph A. Bevilacqua. Supporters were Councilors Thomas J. Sullivan, Andy X. Vargas, Mary Ellen Daly O’Brien and Michael S. McGonagle.

The project, at 108 Harrison St. in the building that housed students first as St. Gregory and later St. James Grammar schools, earned the support of the Planning Board, Planning and Development Director William Pillsbury with several stipulations, including a requirement that 70 percent of the units be set aside for Haverhill residents.

Daly O’Brien suggested requiring renters to display stickers on their cars that would have identified them as residents of the project and required that they park in the lot rather than on the street.

Developers said they would be willing to make the requirement a provision in the lease.