EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

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May 2, 2013

Danville retail site sold back to bank

DANVILLE — Vincent Rizzo’s dream of building a $100 million shopping plaza and retirement community on Route 111 was shattered yesterday when the 49-acre property went up for auction.

A dozen people gathered off the edge of the highway — some holding checks — as auctioneer James St. Jean asked for bids, officially marking the end of Rizzo’s seven-year effort to transform the large wooded site into a retail and residential mecca.

Only minutes after the auction began, it was over.

Most in the small crowd just stood and stared, not saying a word as St. Jean, standing at a podium on the roadside, requested $300,000.

People’s United Bank representative Christopher Droznick then bid $560,000, bringing the auction to a close. The group quietly dispersed.

People’s foreclosed on the property last year and decided to keep title to the site, but Droznick said he could not comment on the bank’s plans. Two previous auctions were postponed last summer as the bank negotiated with Rizzo.

Rizzo, a Plaistow resident and owner of Ozzir Properties, had proposed a large retail complex he said would attract at least a dozen businesses and create more than 550 jobs — a proposal town officials hoped would provide an economic boost to their community. Some residents worried the complex would be detrimental to Danville’s small-town character.

The project had been before town boards for several years and was close to receiving final approval when any progress came to a halt last year after People’s began foreclosure proceedings. Trees had been cleared and construction was to have started this spring.

“What can you do?” said Rizzo as the auction began. “We spent seven years on this. The bank came in and gave us six months, and then that was it.”

Rizzo tried to block the foreclosure. He had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Manchester. He has said he made loan payments to the bank, but it would not grant his extension requests.

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