By Shawn Regan
---- — HAVERHILL — There are two mystery suitors for the proposed UMass-Lowell satellite campus in downtown Haverhill.
Two property owners submitted proposals to host the campus by last Friday’s deadline, said university spokeswoman Christine Gillette. She said a university committee is reviewing the proposals to determine if they meet the bidding criteria and then will decide if they qualify.
Information in the bidding documents show the evaluation process ending Feb. 18 and the winner chosen Feb. 25. The building is expected to be ready for students in August.
Gillette said she did not know when the college would make the proposals public. Mayor James Fiorentini also declined to discuss the bids or the process, except to say he is “very confident” the campus will be coming to Haverhill.
“I have instructed my department heads that this is a procurement process and that we are not to get involved in expressing a preference for one site over another,” the mayor said. “We believe this will be a tremendous boon to our city and to our downtown.”
City officials have said locating the campus in the heart of downtown, either on Merrimack Street or Washington Street, would be ideal. City Council is scheduled to discuss the project at tonight’s meeting at 7 p.m. at City Hall.
In late December, the college announced plans to open a satellite campus in downtown Haverhill. College Chancellor Martin Meehan said the school was looking for 10,000 square feet of office space for six to eight “smart classrooms” and administrative offices for the satellite spot, which will focus on continuing education.
The initial bidding documents required the leased space to be downtown, within walking distance of Haverhill’s train and bus stations. The map was changed, however, after a team from the university did a site walk of the area and felt that there were more potential locations beyond what was covered by the first map, Gillette said.
The original map showed the downtown area from Main Street to the train station, and bordered by Walnut Street/Bailey Boulevard to the north and the Merrimack River to the south. The new, larger map has the same east-west coordinates and is still bordered by the Merrimack River to the south, but it nearly doubled in size by extending the boundary farther to the north, all the way to Route 97/Winter Street.