By Paul Tennant
---- — NORTH ANDOVER — After standing vacant at 70 Main St. for the past eight years, the former Bradstreet School’s days appear to be numbered.
The selectmen voted last night to designate Hearthstone Realty Corp. as the preferred developer for the property. The board liked Hearthstone’s third option, which calls for demolishing the school and erecting a residential building along Saunders Street and a commercial structure facing Main Street.
Hearthstone presented three different plans to the selectmen last week. Three more developers offered proposals to the selectmen last night: Oakgrove Residential, RCG LLC and Water Street Retail LLC.
Oakgrove proposed turning the former school into homes and constructing two retail buildings along Main Street. That plan impressed the selectmen and they voted to make it their second choice.
Victor Sheen, the leader of the Oakgrove Residential team, said he saw an “opportunity” to renovate Bradstreet School into 10 to 15 homes rather than leveling it. He also proposed constructing two retail buildings along Main Street, with a landscaped plaza between them.
Smedile said she preferred the Oakgrove plan because it “blends the old with the new.” Selectman Tracy Watson said she was also impressed with that plan, but her first choice was Hearthstone’s Option 3 because it “enhances” Saunders Street, a residential neighborhood that parallels Main Street.
Selectman Donald Stewart, who attended Bradstreet as a boy, said he didn’t like the idea of tearing down the school, but he was pleased with the businesses and real estate taxes that are bound to be attracted to the downtown by the Hearthstone plan.
“I’ve gone back and forth on this many times,” he said. One factor that swayed him to support the Hearthstone option, he said, is that people under age 70 with whom he has spoken have indicated they don’t care if the old school is razed.
Smedile made a motion that the board designate the Oakgrove plan as its first choice. She and Gordon voted yes, but Stewart, Watson and Richard Vaillancourt were opposed. Watson then moved that Hearthstone’s Option 3 get the board’s blessing. Vaillancourt kicked in a second.
This time the vote was 4-1, with only Smedile dissenting. The board then voted 5-0 to make the Oakgrove proposal its second choice.
Gordon explained that during the next 30 days, Town Manager Andrew Maylor will negotiate a tentative agreement with Hearthstone. If the selectmen are happy with the deal, then Hearthstone will go ahead with its plan.
If Maylor is not able to hammer out a satisfactory arrangement with Hearthstone, then he will reach out to Oakgrove, Gordon said.
Hearthstone has promised to pay the town $300,000 for the Bradstreet School property while Oakgrove offered $250,000. RCG LLC, which would have renovated the former school into artist studios, commercial space and homes and constructed a couple of commercial buildings along Main Street, would have paid $1 for the site
Watson called that offer a “deal breaker.”
Water Street Retail, which proposed erecting one building with stores and offices and no homes, was willing to pay $351,000. Stephen Stapinski, a prominent engineer and developer who is affiliated with that firm, said he and his partner, King Weinstein, had already lined up a restaurant as well as a national retailer for 70 Main St.
Bradstreet School closed in 2005 after serving several generations of North Andover children for nearly a century. Town Meeting voted unanimously last June to authorize the selectmen to sell the property.