HAVERHILL — The city has approved a developer's plan to transform the old St. Joseph School into apartments.
All that remains is for the developer to buy the building from the Archdiocese of Boston, and the project will happen.
Jonathan Cody, who operates Atlantis Investments LLC, is looking to create 28 studio apartments and eight one-bedroom apartments, all priced at market rate, in the former school building on Broadway, just outside Lafayette Square.
"I think this is a great thing for Lafayette Square and for the city, and I'm excited to get started," Cody told city councilors at their meeting Tuesday night.
Cody requested a special permit for a change of use of the old school and to create additional parking across the street from the building, in addition to on-site parking. Councilors voted unanimously to grant Cody the special permit.
For 129 years, many families in Haverhill who wanted their children to have a Catholic education turned to St. Joseph School, but at the end of the 2017 academic year, All Saints Parish announced the school was closing due to declining enrollment. The building has been vacant since then.
Cody's lawyer, Russell Channen of Haverhill, said Cody has entered into a purchase-and-sale agreement for the old school with the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, subject to him obtaining necessary permits and approvals from the city.
Channen said the special permit granted this week is the final step in the process. Cody previously received variances from the Zoning Board of Appeals and approval from the Planning Department, Channen said. He said Cody hopes to take ownership of the property in August.
Cody said he hopes to begin construction in October or November and complete the project 12 to 18 months later. He said he expects to charge about $1,300 a month for a studio apartment and about $1,500 a month for a one-bedroom unit.
During the public comment portion of the hearing at Tuesday's council meeting, local businesswoman Elaine Barker spoke in favor of Cody's plan.
"Jonathan has plans to bring life back to St. Joseph's School," said Barker, who operates a custom stationary shop several blocks away from the old school. "The love and care that were in the walls in that building will be carried over to what Jonathan Cody wants to do. St. Joseph's School is part of Lafayette Square history. Let us all do what we can to make this project work."
Councilor Mary Ellen Daly O'Brien called the project "a positive one for Haverhill."
"The favorable emails we've been getting say it all," she said.
Councilor Thomas Sullivan said St. Joseph's School "had quite a run and quite a reputation."
"To see this property be transformed into housing which will anchor the downtown ... will provide much-needed affordable housing," Sullivan said. "We need a mix and this helps provide that. Jonathan has done his research and he has adequate parking."
Councilor Joseph Bevilacqua said Cody's project is an important one for the city and also for the neighborhood.
"This is a tremendous opportunity," Bevilacqua said. "It would be very difficult to find adaptive reuses (for the building) that are appropriate ... this is an appropriate use and ensures it does not become an abandoned, derelict building."