hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

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March 13, 2014

Perfect new fit for old campus

College, neighbors develop bond following fears about future of campus

When Bradford College closed in 2000, shocking the community, the imaginations of neighbors ran wild.

Families had bought homes near the college so they could live in a rural setting next to the quiet school.

Suddenly they were faced with possibilities they feared for the campus — a condominium complex or other big housing development, or perhaps a school for troubled boys.

The neighbors organized and pressured city officials to help them protect their “back yards’’ — the places where they had invested their lives and families.

Finally, in 2009 a religious college moved in.

It was just the kind of quiet and considerate neighbor that nearby families hoped for. Things have worked out well since.

Northpoint Bible College, formerly Zion Bible College, is as good a neighbor as you could hope for, said families who live near the school.

The new college is very quiet, they said, and also welcoming.

“My sons can bicycle in there,’’ said Anthony Maccario, who headed up the Bradford College Neighborhood Association, said of the campus. “We go for walks to the pond. It’s a beautiful place.’’

But it took several years and a lot of work by neighbors to get to this peaceful place.

In 2000, under the weight of an $18 million debt, Bradford College closed its popular 197-year-old liberal arts school and abandoned the 75 acre-site.

The residential neighborhood surrounding the campus was used to the quiet, bucolic, collegiate lifestyle. Neighbors worried about the future of the vacant property.

“We were anxious about what would happen in there, so we formed an association, sought legal council and organized as a legal civil entity to see what we could do to redeem this piece of property,” Maccario said.

The old college’s grounds stood abandoned and unused for seven years, buildings going derelict and crumbling from neglect.

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