EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

February 10, 2014

New plan emerges for building in target neighborhood

Apartments proposed for vacant former market

By Shawn Regan
sregan@eagletribune.com

---- — HAVERHILL — There is hope yet for a deteriorated building in a neighborhood targeted by the city for improvements.

An unsuccessful proposal to turn the vacant building in the Mount Washington neighborhood into an apartment complex will return to City Council in March with a new design.

Paul Arsenault, who calls himself as the project contractor and co-owner of the property, has tried unsuccessfully to win council approval to convert the vacant building at 12-13 High St. to apartments.

The building was formerly a dual-use building, with a retail store on the first floor and two apartments above, but has been vacant for many years.

The building is in an inner-city neighborhood targeted by the city for improvements. Mount Washington is one of Haverhill’s oldest sections and has several run down buildings, as well as a problem with street crime. The city has assigned extra police patrols to the neighborhood.

Arsenault’s plan won approval from city planners, but councilors raised concerns about limited parking on the site and other issues. Several councilors said they thought the plan included too many apartments and not enough outside space. The plan called for seven apartments.

Local attorney William Faraci told councilors last week that Arsenault is no longer involved with the project and that the owner of the property, Kerri Fronduto, is submitting a new and better design developed by an architect. The new proposal still includes seven housing units.

All multi-unit housing projects need council approval.

Faraci asked councilors to allow city Planning Director William Pillsbury to review the new plan and then send it to the council for a public hearing and vote.

Councilors agreed the new proposal should start over, however, with a full review by the Planning Board and city department heads before coming back to them.

“In the past this was a market with no more than two units, so this is an aggressive reuse of the building,” Councilor William Macek said. “It’s in the best interest of the community to start over and do a full review. I don’t want it fast-tracked.”

Councilor Mary Ellen Daily O’Brien said she wants to see the project succeed, but agreed it should start over.

“It was obvious the first time we saw this that there are all kinds of problems with the plan, which is why we are getting changes now,” Daly O’Brien said. “I’m concerned there’s not enough land there for families with children, but I want to see it succeed. So let’s get it done right.”

The council voted 7-0 to send the proposal to the Planning Board for its review and recommendations, and then to hold a council hearing and vote March 25. Councilor William Ryan abstained from voting because he owns property near the High Street building, and Councilor Michael McGonagle was not at the meeting.

According to city tax records, the property is assessed at $283,000 and is owned by 13 High Street Realty Trust, Kerri Fronduto trustee.