The Haverhill City Council gave the green light last night to construction of a 290-unit apartment complex, on the Merrimack River across from the Bradford commuter rail station.
Key to the City Council’s support of the project by the Procopio Company of Lynnfield was a proposed nearly $2 million realignment and signalization of adjacent streets. The complex includes two five-story buildings and a 3.2-acre public park adjacent to the Comeau Bridge at the site of the former Ornsteen Heel Factory. It will also include land presently occupied by Skateland and an abandoned gas station.
Mayor James J. Fiorentini said the park, which will be gifted to the city after it is constructed, will turn what is now a blighted area into a welcoming entrance to Bradford.
“The waterfront park will provide a beautiful gateway to Bradford. It will be the first thing people will see when they enter Bradford and will give an incredible impression to people entering the city, or that area of the city. It will include a public playground, a walkway around the water, a rest area, benches, a new dog park,” he said, endorsing the project.
The park will also include a splash pad area for children, an amphitheater and a launch area for kayaks. The buildings will feature 30 studio apartments, 148 one-bedrooms, 21 one-bedrooms with a den and 91 two-bedroom units and a riverfront-facing restaurant on the first floor.
One of the major concerns regarding the planned development has been traffic congestion. The area has long been a trouble spot, particularly during rush hour. Michael Procopio, CEO, told the council his company took those concerns very seriously.
“We came with a major infrastructure plan, specifically designed and thought out to solve the traffic congestion and safety issues at Railroad Ave., South Elm and the lower approach to the Comeau Bridge, tied in with the signalization on the Washington Street end of the bridge and the way those signals are synchronized really inefficiently flowing the traffic through there today,” he said.
That plan, which was developed using $1.95 million from the state’s Massworks Grant Program, includes realigning Laurel Avenue and South Elm Street, realigning Railroad Avenue and South Elm and realigning Blossom Street and South Elm Street. It will also reconstruct sidewalks for better pedestrian protection, construct bicycle lanes with a connection to the Bradford Rail Trail and install additional traffic signal controls. The plan also calls for updated technology to help synchronize traffic flow with a minimum of waiting at intersections.
The project, which received the blessing of Economic and Planning Director William Pillsbury Jr. and City Engineer John H. Pettis III, among others, is expected to generate $19 million for the city over the next 20 years. It will also generate several hundred jobs which Procopio promised would be offered to Haverhill residents whenever possible.
The Council awarded the special permit with a number of conditions including plans for snow removal, installation of call boxes on the section of the rail trail adjacent to the property and a promise to help improve the condition of the nearby Wood School playground.
The final vote was 8-1 with Council President Melinda E. Barrett opposed. As Barrett explained this morning, “I appreciated their enthusiasm, and it was a good presentation. I like the park. I support some development in this area but this was too large by at least half.”
She said the concerns she expressed when the project was first proposed remained obstacles. “The project was too big. The traffic ‘improvements,’ if they work, may lead to longer lines which may lead to cars cutting through feeder streets in the area. It needed waivers for parking, height and capacity per acre.”