Northern Essex Community College Solicits Private Sector Bids to Redevelop Haverhill Sports Center

Northern Essex Community College Haverhill campus. (Courtesy photograph.)

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Northern Essex Community College is moving ahead with plans to have the private sector play a role in redeveloping and modernizing its Haverhill health and wellness facilities—an idea that has already attracted interest from the Haverhill YMCA.

The state Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance and the college yesterday formally opened to door to bids for leasing and sharing part of the campus that, officials said, “will address deferred maintenance, contribute to campus decarbonization, foster neighborhood relationships and boost recruitment and retention by enabling vibrant athletic programming.”

“Vibrant health and wellness programming is not only beneficial to our students, and essential to retention and recruiting, but also serves as a connection directly to the community,” said Northern Essex President Lane A. Glenn. “This redevelopment project will position us to modernize our athletic, health and wellness offerings and meet the changing needs of our community head on.”

As WHAV reported first a year ago, the state and the college solicited preliminary ideas that would be developed in concert with talks with the college. The Haverhill YMCA suggested demolition of the existing college Sports and Fitness Center Building and replacing it with a 60,000 square-foot health and fitness center; 10,000 square-foot early learning center; academic achievement center, serving the Y’s targeted middle school and teen programming; outdoor multi-sport turf fields and fitness studios, created in collaboration with Northern Essex and Central Catholic High School.

The YMCA mentioned the possibility of leasing the property for 99 years for $1 and converting its existing Winter Street building into an “affordable housing development.” Maine-based Treadwell Franklin Infrastructure also suggested a 50,000-90,000 square foot building that would include a strength and fitness center, running track, courts, multi-purpose studios, locker rooms, possible field turf and ancillary use and classroom spaces.

“We envision this project will further our mission of removing barriers to higher education. Our local youth will grow up visiting our beautiful campus and see NECC as the natural next step in their educational journey,” said Northern Essex CFO Michael McCarthy. “Our current facility was built in 1971 and we have more than $9 million in deferred maintenance needs. We’re eager to see the results of the RFP process and grateful for this partnership with DCAMM.”

Bidders have until Aug. 30 to offer proposals for a long-term ground lease and redevelopment of up to around 16 acres, including the approximately 44,800 square-foot Sports and Fitness Center, parking area, baseball field, softball field and asphalt track. Proposals are required to include a plan addressing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion objectives throughout the project. Preference will be given to proposals resulting in reduced carbon emissions and environmental improvements.

Officials made note that the project is not directly related to a possible partnership between Whittier Regional Vocational Technical High School and Northern Essex.

The Gov. Maura T. Healey administration noted in a statement, the “recent demand for public community college in Massachusetts…and the significant deferred maintenance needs of these colleges, this project presents an opportunity to equip a vital institution to thrive.” The statement said redevelopment will enable the college’s “title-winning athletic programs to grow, adjust and expand its offerings” while offering the public “greenspace, field time for city and local youth leagues, healthy and sustainable food options and affordable childcare.”

“I am looking forward to seeing the impact this redevelopment project will have on Northern Essex Community College, enabling students, educators and the wider community to spend time in newer, greener, and more sustainable learning and recreational environments,” said Secretary of Education Dr. Patrick Tutwiler.

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