Procopio Offers $1 Million for City-Owned, Ornsteen Land Near Bradford Rail; Plans 290 Apartments

Rendering of proposed plans for Ornsteen property adjacent to Skateland.

Haverhill has chosen Procopio Companies of Lynnfield, to develop the former Ornsteen Heel property near the Bradford commuter rail station.

Of three contenders to buy the city-owned land, Procopio originally proposed the most housing units—320 market rate apartments—and at one time offered the highest bid, $2 million. However, Mayor James J. Fiorentini said today the project was whittled down at the city’s request to 290 units and a payment of $1 million.

“It is easily the best proposal,” Fiorentini told WHAV. He said the $2 million bid was never a realistic purchase price since the developer proposed the city buy back the park area for $1.5 million.

During a live interview with Win Damon on WHAV this morning, Fiorentini gave a preview of the designation of Procopio as “preferred developer” without identifying the firm by name. The 4.8-acre property is at 31-35 Railroad Ave., next to Skateland and opposite downtown on the other side of the river. Fiorentini plans to ask the City Council Tuesday night to support his plan to enter into “a public-private partnership to build an upscale housing and retail development with a large public park along the Merrimack River in Bradford.”

See WHAV’s Dec. 13 extensive analysis of the three proposals.

“This development is going to enhance the city’s image and create employment and housing opportunities for local residents,” Fiorentini said in a statement today. He noted that details of the proposal were developed following the recommendations and goals of the city’s new Master Plan, specifically to encourage new housing close to commuter rail.

The development is projected to generate $19.2 million for city coffers over the first 20 years, including the $1 million purchase price, $900,000 in permit fees and $17.3 million in property taxes over that period.

Procopio, which says it already has purchase and sale agreements on adjacent properties, originally proposed two four-story buildings and one six-story building, each with 100 apartments. The developer breaks out unit type in percentages, saying 5% will be studios; 55%, one-bedroom; 35%, two-bedrooms; and 5% three-bedrooms. It plans a mix of garage and surface parking and a 60,000-square-foot public park area with a river-walk, kayak and paddle board launches, pet-park area, outdoor fitness, children’s playground and walking access to the Comeau Bridge.

The proposal also calls for 10,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space. Construction costs are estimated at up to $72 million.

Bids not selected were Neighborhood of Affordable Housing, known as NOAH, of East Boston, proposing 110-130 market rate and “workforce” apartments in a single building and bidding $1.2 million, and Princeton Properties, which has an ownership interest in the former Forest Acres apartment complex off South Main Street, proposing 144 market rate apartments spread between two buildings and bidding $500,000.

The city has formally sought bidders for the Ornsteen Heel property at least four times since 2004.

“The property has been difficult to sell because of the River’s Act and its topography,” Fiorentini’s statement said. “Today, it is all weeds and overgrowth and provides no revenue or use to the city at all.”

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