HAVERHILL — The city lost more than 400 jobs when the Southwick clothing factory in the Broadway Business Park closed last year. Now, Haverhill is poised to pick up 350 jobs once a proposed food processing plant opens in the same park.

The city's Conservation Commission has approved an environmental permit for Paradigm Properties to construct a 128,000-square-foot one-story building to be leased by Monogram Foods in the business park.

Monogram Foods is expected to bring about 350 jobs to Haverhill, city officials said.

The location to be used by the company was originally part of the Rich's warehouse expansion project that was never completed, although the site had been prepared for construction.

Haverhill lost the Southwick clothing factory after the Brooks Brothers company filed for bankruptcy protection in July 2020, one day after telling 413 Southwick employees that the operation would close at the end of that month. Southwick was one of three Brooks Brothers factories that produced high-end men’s clothing in the United States. The factory was located in the former Lowe's Home Improvement building next to the Target store in the Broadway Business Park.

Monogram Foods is a privately held Memphis, Tennessee-based manufacturer and marketer of products such as Wild Bill's Beef Jerky and brands like Johnsonville and Butterball.

At the Conservation Commission's Feb. 18 meeting, members of the group reviewed plans outlined by Stephen Stapinski of Merrimack Engineering Services, the site surveyor and engineer for the food plant project.

Stapinski explained how the design of the project addresses wetland concerns through the installation of drainage and filtration systems that collect storm water and roof runoff and redistribute the filtered water back into the ground and adjacent wetlands.

The project would also address wildlife concerns through the installation of a culvert as a wildlife crossing for use by animals such as turtles, the replacement of a retaining wall, the planting of wetland vegetation and the restoration of wetland areas that were disrupted by previous development, Stapinski said.

"Through lengthy diligence, marked by good faith, we're happy to permit the building with resource protection and extensive storm water management," said commission spokesman Ralph Basiliere. "This was an opportunity to help the city through jobs and revenue while protecting the city's natural resources."

The plant would be built off Research Drive, behind Magellan Aerospace on Computer Drive. The plan calls for trucks arriving and leaving the site to use Research Drive, which connects to Route 97 and is close to the Interstate 495 northbound and southbound exits.

As a condition of the Conservation Commission's approval, the developer must post a cash escrow in the amount of $46,582 to be controlled by the commission. The commission will use the money for wetland restoration, stream culvert replacement/upsizing, fish passage improvements, water quality improvements, climate change resiliency, buffer zone restoration, habitat connectivity and land acquisition.

Mayor James Fiorentini said the commission did an expert job evaluating the project and ensuring it will address wetland and wildlife concerns.

"The conservation commission in many cities is a place where projects go to die," Fiorentini said.

Fiorentini has long focused on bringing businesses to the city's industrial parks. 

He said the food plant already received approval from the state, and that the next step is for Paradimn's general contractor to submit plans to the city engineer and obtain a building permit.

"They are talking about groundbreaking in late March, but given the nature of things, it will likely be in April," he said.

The 16-year-old Monogram company employs more than 3,000 people in seven states, according to its website. The closest one is in Wilmington.

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