The Hobby Lobby, a national chain of retail hobby stores, is purchasing the college campus, which has been vacant for seven years. Hobby Lobby founder and CEO David Green is then expected to donate the school to Zion Bible College of Rhode Island, Fiorentini said.
"The owner is of the same denomination," explained Fiorentini, who called the deal "absolutely fantastic."
Hobby Lobby, headquartered in Oklahoma City, has 390 stores in 32 states, not including Massachusetts and New Hampshire, according to the store's Web site.
Green, who is married with three children, is worth $2 billion, putting him among the country's 400 wealthiest residents, according to Forbes Magazine.
Hobby Lobby is involved in a variety of national and international ministry projects. In February 2005, Green told Charisma magazine he "believes God has blessed his business so he can share his money with others."
The money Zion Bible College anticipated using to buy the school property will instead be earmarked for renovating the shuttered college campus, Fiorentini said.
The mayor would not discuss the terms of the agreement.
"We think this is just fantastic news for the city of Haverhill," he said.
Like Fiorentini, members of the Bradford College Neighborhood Association are also thrilled about the pending sale, President Joseph Barbone said last night. The 100-member group pushed for years to find an educational institution to take over the campus, rather than have it turned into housing or used for commercial purposes.
"We've been in constant communications with Zion for months," said Barbone, a Kingsbury Avenue resident who can see the college campus from his home.
"We were hoping they could pull it together, and it's been encouraging for the past several weeks. Now, it looks like it's going to go through," Barbone said.
Zion Bible College of Barrington, R.I., is part of the Assemblies of God higher-education system, which includes 19 colleges and universities nationwide. The college has been trying to relocate for several years because it wants more space than it has in Barrington.
Bradford College closed in 2000 after 197 years as a liberal arts school. It was bought over a year later by GFI Partners, an Angelo Gordon & Co. affiliate. The college campus features eight buildings, including three signature halls fronting South Main Street - Academy, Haseltine and Denworth.
A sealed-bid auction for the Bradford property was scheduled to end at 4 p.m. tomorrow.
Fiorentini lauded the neighborhood group for it's "unrelenting pressure" to find an educational use for the property.
"We will keep a college in the city," he said. "We will keep that same great tradition."
Determination and a consistent message kept the neighborhood group on track over the years, Barbone said.
"We persevered through a lot of uncertain times. ... But our consistent message was we needed an educational user," Barbone said.
"You need to strive toward what you believe in. And you can't let uncertainty compromise your values and principals," he added.