Haverhill Councilors Agree to Sell Ornsteen Riverfront Property; Express Traffic Concerns

Michael Procopio of the Procopio Companies addresses the Haverhill City Council Feb. 25, 2020. (WHAV News file photograph.)

Despite traffic concerns, a plan to develop the long abandoned Ornsteen Heel property, near the Bradford commuter rail station, moved a step closer to reality last night.

Haverhill city councilors gave Mayor James J. Fiorentini the go-ahead to sign a purchase and sale agreement with the Procopio Company of Lynnfield. The agreement, which is the result of negotiations involving the mayor, City Solicitor William D. Cox Jr. and the developer, means the project will move into a 45-day review period, and assuming the developer finds no problems, then moves into the permitting stage.

While councilors were overwhelmingly supportive of the 290-unit apartment complex in general, the question of how it will affect traffic in that already congested area was a major concern. Councilor William J. Macek expressed it this way.

“It is a project that is transformative for that area, for the city to have something like this. The only negative thing I’ve heard is that the traffic is going to be gridlock morning and afternoon and that’s the one thing, hopefully, you’re going to find a solution for, because I think it is the one thing that concerns people,” he said.

Besides apartments overlooking the Merrimack River, the development would include 10,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space, a garage, outdoor parking and a 60,000 square foot public park featuring an amphitheater, playground, a river walk and an area for launching kayaks and paddle boards.

Developer Michael Procopio told councilors he has options to buy both the land currently occupied by Skateland and the former gas station property near the Comeau Bridge. Those parcels will be used mostly as a park with amphitheater.

The development is projected to generate $19.2 million for the city over the first 20 years. $1.9 million would be realized over the next couple of years in the sale price of the property and required permit fees. Procopio also said it should provide 280-400 construction jobs during the building phase and 20-30 jobs in the planned retail businesses

In the end, the council voted 7-1 to approve the purchase and sale agreement with Council President Melinda E. Barrett dissenting and Councilor Thomas J. Sullivan abstaining.

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