EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

August 20, 2013

Condos proposed at former nightclub spot

Developer plans 59 units on riverfront land

By Shawn Regan

---- — HAVERHILL — Six years since a well-known nightclub on the property was demolished, the owner of 85 Water St. wants to build 59 luxury condos on the banks of the Merrimack River.

The 1.2-acre site is near the Basiliere Bridge and across from Central Plaza. It was home to the Friend’s Landing nightclub until the building was razed in 2007.

The land is just east of downtown.

Frank Franzone of Engineered Concrete Products on Newark Street, who owns the property, is seeking a special permit from City Council to develop the site under the name Water Street Waterfront LLC. The council is expected to schedule an Oct. 15 public hearing prior to voting. The plan calls for the condos to be in two, six-story towers overlooking the river.

Economic Development Director William Pillsbury said the Planning Board will hold its public hearing on the plan Sept. 11.

Franzone won approval from the council several years ago for a similar development that featured 60 condos. Like the old one, the new proposal features two, six-story towers and a parking garage under the towers.

“The new proposal looks basically the same as the old one,” Pillsbury said.

The former proposal languished and ultimately collapsed during the real estate downturn.

The parcel is one of several prime undeveloped sites that would fall under new zoning regulations which Mayor James Fiorentini is developing for riverfront property. The new rules are designed to require developers to provide public access to portions of their properties and keep them from blocking views of the river.

Fiorentini said he has not studied the details of Franzone’s new proposal and declined to provide his opinion of it yesterday. He did say, however, that the council can require Franzone to follow any or all of the provisions of his new zoning proposal. That’s because Franzone’s project cannot go forward without a special permit from the council, the mayor said.

Fiorentini said he had hoped to find money for the city to buy the property and convert it to a public park. He said he applied, unsuccessfully, for state and federal grants in recent years to acquire the land. Paperwork in the new proposal shows Franzone paid $750,000 for the parcel in 1989. It’s currently assessed at $500,000, according to city tax records.

In general, the mayor said the project is a good sign the local residential real estate market is recovering after years of decline.

“Everyone wants is to see the value of people’s homes go up,” Fiorentini said. “The fact that developers are again willing to invest in these kind of projects is a good sign in that direction.”

City Councilor William Macek said he hasn’t seen the details of Franzone’s proposal either, but that he is cautiously optimistic.

“I want to make sure it’s favorable to the community and includes at least some of the public benefits in the mayor’s zoning proposal, such as public access and view corridors of the river,” Macek said. “But it’s great to see a development coming to the property, depending on the details.”