The family of local business and property owners who built the Building Centers are now creating what could be the largest residential development in central Gloucester in almost 40 years.
The $2 million, eight-acre Lupine Lane project in Riverdale at the Mill Pond — also called Riverdale Place — was conceived in 2000 and stalled in legal wrangling for eight years.
Site preparation took about a year, with a sales push launched in 2010. The developers sold three of their 14 lots in the past two years, with construction on the homes complete or under way.
“There have been single-family residential projects in other parts of town, like Magnolia and West Gloucester,” said city building inspector Bill Sanborn, who issues permits for construction. “I could be wrong ... but I can’t think of any other equivalent in scope and size in central city since Reservoir Road in the ‘70s,” referring to the homes behind the O’Maley school.
The property was purchased for $225,000 in 1984 by the Heberle family, which began the Building Center business — now on Harbor Loop in Gloucester, and on Route 22 in Essex — some 110 years ago. The story of Charles “Cap” Heberle, who came to this area as an indentured servant, is now enshrined as part of the city’s new multimedia HarborWalk.
His granddaughters, Margaret (Peg) Huff of Gloucester and Harriet (Hatsie) Van Wart of Scituate, now own the business – with its harbor-front acreage valued at more than $2 million – and the housing project, which they bought from the corporate Building Center for $2.6 million in 2008, shortly before the real estate crash.
Lots at Lupine are now priced from $125,000-175,000. The first-sold property was assessed this year, with only 30 percent completion of the home, for $226,700.
Advertisements for the development say builders will be given an “incentive” to purchase materials at the Building Center.
“I’m very proud and grateful to present this opportunity for people to get land in Gloucester,” said Peg Huff.
The path was not easy.
Stevan Goldin, local preservation activist and development antagonist, filed objections to the project beginning in 2002 that were repeatedly rejected by city officials and the courts.
Goldin continued to appeal, although the Building Center had been awarded double the company’s legal and court costs, to the state Supreme Judicial Court, which rejected his argument in 2008, without comment.
Nancy Gaines is a regular Times correspondent and a veteran writer and editor with both Boston-based and national publications.: