EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

September 10, 2013

Historical Commission delays demolition of Bradstreet School for a year

By Paul Tennant
ptennant@eagletribune.com

---- — NORTH ANDOVER — The former Bradstreet School received a stay of execution yesterday afternoon.

The Historical Commission voted 4-2 to invoke the town’s demolition delay bylaw. This action will bar a developer from tearing down the century-old building at 70 Main St. for a year.

Hearthstone Realty, a firm chosen by the selectmen May 13, has proposed razing the school and constructing a residential building along Saunders Street and a commercial structure facing Main Street. Town Manager Andrew Maylor, who attended yesterday’s meeting as well as a public hearing the commission held last Thursday night, said the vote will not change the plans to redevelop the Bradstreet School property.

The town is negotiating with Hearthstone and the developer “anticipated the delay,” Maylor told reporters. The company has not yet set up a construction schedule, he said.

Kathleen Szyska, chairwoman of the Historical Commission, said yesterday’s vote was only the second time the panel has invoked the demolition delay bylaw. The first instance happened several years ago, when the commission held up the destruction of a historic house on Greene Street.

“We would not be doing our job if we just threw up our hands and let it go,” Szyska said of the vote. She pointed out that the commission has a “mission” to preserve historic properties.

Szyska, Anne Erickson, Jan Williams and Charles Gangi voted to invoke the demolition delay bylaw while Patricia Long and James Wefers voted in opposition.

While the selectmen designated Hearthstone as their first choice, they also picked a second choice, Oakgrove Residential of Boston, which submitted a plan that would have preserved Bradstreet School and renovated it into apartments.

Victor Sheen, principal of Oakgrove, attended the Historical Commission meeting.

“We were here to observe,” he said. He also said he had been “excited” about the possibility of preserving Bradstreet School in a redevelopment project.

Szyska said she hopes the vote will “send a message” to developers that “this commission is serious” about the preservation of historic properties.

She noted, however, that the commission will not stop the demolition of a building just because it happens to be old. Yesterday the commission declined to delay the razing of a 1950s-style Cape Cod house at 14 Lorraine Ave.

Bradstreet School was closed in 2005 and the building has been vacant ever since. The 2012 annual Town Meeting authorized the selectmen to sell the property.