EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


March 3, 2013

City puts focus on development along river

Aims to lure homes, businesses to old sites

HAVERHILL — The city is launching a new effort to sell the Ornstein Heel property on the banks of Merrimack River in Bradford — part of an plan by Mayor James Fiorentini to redevelop several former industrial sites along the waterway.

The mayor’s plan is to alter zoning for property along the river by creating seven separate zones, each with different rules aimed at encouraging specific uses.

“The zones are different, but there is one constant,” Fiorentini said. “If you invest along the river and allow for pubic access, we will eliminate red tape and regulatory barriers.”

The types of public access can differ, the mayor said. “But the point of view is constant,’’ he said. “The river belongs to all of us, not just those fortunate to live next it.’’

Major areas of interest include the Bradford side of the river opposite downtown, the Merrimack Street stretch of downtown, Water Street to the east of downtown and the Little River corridor, much of which flows through a pipe under downtown before it empties into the Merrimack.

The city seized the sprawling, wooded Ornstein property for nonpayment of taxes after several industrial buildings on the site were demolished in 1994. A proposal by a company called Merrimack Towers to buy the property for $3.4 million and build 136 garden-style condominiums in three buildings overlooking the river collapsed with the local real estate market several years ago.

Fiorentini said he is preparing a new campaign to market and sell the property, under new rules that encourage market-rate housing and require the developer to allow public access to the waterway.

There are several other key old-factory sites near the Ornstein property in Bradford, the mayor said, that the city is also hoping to spur interest in. They include a site once known as Hoyt and Worthen Tanning and the 23-acre Haverhill Paperboard parcel that has been the subject of recent discussions by its private owner about a major development there.

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