EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

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October 1, 2012

Developer plans 360 apartments near school

Decision on massive housing project nears as city considers size of proposed new school in Bradford

HAVERHILL — When city officials get to work next month on an $800,000 analysis to determine the size of the proposed new school in Bradford, they will be paying close attention to a housing proposal that includes 360 new apartments within easy walking distance of the troubled Hunking Middle School.

Recent repairs to Hunking are expected to last about five years, and the city is planning to replace that school and nearby Greenleaf Elementary with a building that could potentially accommodate up to 1,200 students in kindergarten through grade eight.

Hunking was partially closed last school year over fears the building's north wing could collapse due to structure problems. Temporary repairs allowing full use of the building were completed this past summer.

Greenleaf is also deteriorated and needs costly repairs if it is to remain in use, school officials said. The other school in the area, Bradford Elementary, is new and in good condition, but it is one of the city's most crowded schools, officials said.

Given the state of the three Bradford schools, local and state officials will be keeping their eyes on an upcoming Zoning Board of Appeals meeting at which developer Louis Minicucci Jr. is scheduled to pitch his plan to build 360 townhouses and garden-style homes on 113 acres across from Academy Plaza on Route 125. The site is behind the sprawling Presidential Gardens and Forest Acres housing developments, just up the road from Hunking.

The original Ridgecrest development, as the project is called, was approved in 2005 as home-ownership condominiums. That plan stalled due to the poor economy and slumping real estate market, however.

Minicucci, of Northpoint Realty Development, returned last year with a new plan to build rentals instead, including 75 more three-bedroom homes than were in the old plan.

Economic Development Director William Pillsbury, among others, have raised concerns about additional children the three-bedroom homes are certain to bring to already overcrowded schools in the area — concerns that have been underscored by the problems at Hunking and Greenleaf.

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