HAVERHILL — A mixed-use development with 153 apartment units and retail space is poised to replace DiBurro’s Function Facility in Ward Hill.
In a vote of 7-1, the City Council last week approved a change to the city’s zoning ordinance that will allow Princeton Properties of Lowell to turn the DiBurro’s property at 887 Boston Road into a mixed-use development of retail and apartment buildings.
Councilors Thomas Sullivan, William Macek, Colin LePage, John Michitson, Joseph Bevilacqua, Mary Ellen Daly-O’Brien and Timothy Jordan voted to amend city zoning to create a Planned Development District, which is a zone designed specifically for this project.
Council President Melinda Barrett opposed the zoning change noting concerns for the project’s size and the potential for increased traffic in that neighborhood. Councilor Michael McGonagle was absent from the meeting.
Princeton Properties has entered into a purchase and sale agreement with David and Robert DiBurro to buy their function facility and its roughly 6.5 acres, officials said.
David DiBurro said he and his brother plan to continue operating their function facility until the end of the year and plan to continue making and selling their famous Italian salad dressing.
The redevelopment project will include three, four-story buildings of 36 apartments each, plus a five-story building of 45 units, along with one clubhouse and retail building and one standalone retail building that would be retained for use by the DiBurro family, as well as parking for each unit.
Princeton CEO Andrew Chaban explained that Boston Road will serve as the entry and exit for the project. The current entrance on Route 125 will only be used to access a standalone, 3,000 square foot retail building. A gate will allow for emergency access to the residential portion of the property, he said.
Half of the apartments will be one-bedroom units and the other half two-bedroom units, Chaban said, noting he expects the apartments will be attractive to professional working people.
Princeton Properties manages the Princeton Bradford Apartment Homes complex in Bradford, which recently completed a $5.2 million makeover, and has also built a mixed-use development featuring 192 apartment homes and is in full operation at 1252 Osgood St. (Route 125) in North Andover.
Macek said that as part of the city’s new zoning laws, there is a feature called “flexible development,” which he said allows for the creation of special zoning districts for specific projects.
“It gives the city flexibility to allow certain sites to be maximized for their best and highest use but not apply to other locations in the city as our standard zoning laws do,” Macek said.
City Economic and Development Director William Pillsbury said this is the first project to come forward under the Planned Development District zoning envisioned in the city’s Master Plan.
He said that in approving the change in zoning, the council allowed for the creation of a “one of a kind” zone called the Boston Road Planned Development District, which he said is tailored to just this project.
During the public comment portion of the hearing, Carolyn Veasey Jackson and Ada Veasey McKenzie, owners and operators of Cedardale Health and Fitness, which is a neighbor to DiBurro’s, said they were in full support of the project.
“We’re very pleased with the plan they put together,” Carolyn Veasey Jackson said.
Cory Willis, of 1115 Boston Road, said he would have preferred a single-family home development and that the project proposed will result in increased traffic on his street, which he said has mostly single family homes.
“We’re talking 700 units coming to Bradford in the next four years,” Willis said in reference to this and other housing projects proposed for Bradford. “I don’t think the city can handle it.”