A new age of Aquarius is coming to Gloucester's Back Shore.

The former Ocean View Inn property on Atlantic Road, acquired last summer for $7.5 million and targeted for revitalization as a multi-unit housing site, is now being marketed as "Aquarius on the Back Shore." Construction on one of the main mansions is ongoing and work on a second major single-family home is yet to begin.

Monte Marrocco said he expects the anchor building on the site — a renovated and restored High Cliff Lodge, the mansion nearest the corner of Atlantic and High Popples roads — will be ready for occupancy next spring, with a likely sale price of more than $4 million. He heads the Winchester-based Marrocco Group real estate group and is working with site owner Bryan Melanson and his Melanson Development Group of Woburn.

Marrocco confirmed that the second mansion, known as The Manor House, will be torn down, but will be replaced with a single-family home to be sold at a price tag in the "mid-to-high $2 million" range.

The other two lots on the four-lot property, which runs from 161 to 171 Atlantic Road, will each be home to a duplex, for a total of four units, Marrocco said. The northernmost end of the site, adjacent to a stretch of conservation land, will be redeveloped with multi-family housing that is still in the design and planning phase. 

The Melanson Group acquired the property in July 2018 and began extensive work on it in March, razing of a three-story hotel building that had essentially stood behind the historic mansions along Atlantic Road. The property had five primary buildings, plus a string of now boarded-up motel units that remain linked on the north side of the site. The overall property covers more than 380,000 square feet, including some wetlands at its northern end.

Melanson had said from the time he purchased the property that the High Cliff Lodge mansion would be retained and restored as a single-family home, but that the future of The Manor House remained uncertain — both in terms of the existing building and a future use for that portion of the site.
 Marrocco confirmed Monday that the Manor House will have to be razed due to its condition, but the location will be used for a second single-family home. 
 "They're looking at knocking everything down except for the (High Cliff) mansion," Marrocco said, "but with new construction of the other single-family home replacing the other mansion."
 Marrocco said the project has some flexibility, including in the planned construction of the duplex units, where work has not yet begun.
 "If you were interested, and came to ask us about building a single-family home there instead of a duplex, we might say 'yes,'" he said, indicating that the Melanson Group is permitted for both. "That could still be in play."
 Marrocco said he's optimistic about marketing the entire site.
 "I could see it really appealing to the guy from Boston who is sick of driving through the traffic to Cape Cod," he said.  "Gloucester is easier to get to, and there are a lot of good things happening in Gloucester."
 Marrocco noted that location is a key driver for any real estate, and said the location of the former Ocean View site — across the road from the Atlantic Ocean, adjacent to the Bass Rocks Golf Club, and with conservation land just to the north — touches on three leading qualities.
 "I would say that waterfront is No. 1, that No. 2 is probably a golf course (location) — that's right behind us,  and that conservation land is No. 3. That's right here, too."
 As to "Aquarius" — the name of the development — Marrocco said that's drawn more from the connection of the term "aqua" to the ocean than to the astrological age that some scientists believe came with the change of the millennium.
 "We just threw out some ideas for names, somebody in the office suggested that, and we liked it. We thought it fit," Marrocco said. "It does."
 Ray Lamont can be reached at 978-675-2705, or rlamont@gloucestertimes.com. 

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