GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

October 13, 2012

Riverside housing plan revived

Plans for Whittemore subdivision back on table

By Steven Fletcher Staff Writer
Gloucester Daily Times

---- — With the local real-estate market thawing, local developer Jay McNiff has rekindled plans for an up-to-10-unit subdivision on the former Cape Ann Forge site at the end of Whittemore Street and Riverside Avenue.

McNiff has filed preliminary plans with the city for a five-lot subdivision on the Annisquam River off Whittemore Street at the former Cape Ann Forge site.

He said Friday he plans for either single-family or duplex units in the project he’s called Anchorworks, but for now, he said, the project is still in its permitting adolescence.

McNiff said flickers of hope in the real-estate market have brought the Anchorworks project back to life. Those positive signals have included the acquisition and revived development plans for the 50-acre Magnolia Reach project, and the acquisition of Rockport’s former Cape Ann Tool Company site, with new owner Michael Rauseo looking to pick up the condominium and mixed-use plans for that site where former owner Christopher Kaneb left off.

”There’s some glimmer of hope out there, so we might as well continue permitting in a directed fashion,” McNiff said. “ There was no light at the end of the tunnel for a while.”

McNiff’s initial plan shows five duplex units on the crescent of land stretching from the train bridge to the intersection of Whittemore and Riverside. The site is the undeveloped part of the same lot on which the industrial development at the end of Whittemore Street was built.

His initial proposal called for two five-unit condominium buildings on the site. That presented a bit of a problem, McNiff said. With a project like that, McNiff said he’d have to build all units at once. By going the subdivision route, he said he can sell units piece by piece.

“It allows us to work in the market and ease our financing,” he said.

This development isn’t the first McNiff has built in the city of Gloucester. He and co-developer Todd Twombly built what’s now known as Station Place near Gloucester’s commuter rail station on Railroad Avenue around 2007.

He said he started preparing the former Forge site in 2008, after receiving Conservation Commission approval for the work. Since then, his company had been digging up pockets of contaminated soil. They found old heating oil that was spilled years ago.

McNiff took out a $295,000 Environmental Protection Agency Brownfields restoration grant from Gloucester’s Browfields revolving loan fund. He’s also sunk about $80,000 into design and engineering on the site so far.

“There isn’t a lot of science to it other than sampling,” McNiff said, “We just had to get in there and get it done.”

He said he’s working with the Planning Board and the city to hammer out the details. He said he’s engineering the project in a low impact design function that will help mitigate drainage issues in the neighborhood.

City Community Development Director Gregg Cademartori said the project is in the preliminary subdivision process with the Planning Board. Until that’s settled, McNiff said he’s not sure if he’ll actually build the units, or sell the lots with a suggested design.

Steven Fletcher may be contacted at 1-978-283-7000 x3455, or sfletcher@gloucestertimes.com. Follow him on Twitter at @stevengdt.