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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Abandoned Gas Station at River's Edge Up for Auction

Source: Eagle Tribune
By Shawn Regan

Mayor hopes for new development along the Merrimack

HAVERHILL -- The long-abandoned Getty gas station property on the banks of the Merrimack River appears to have a heartbeat.

The unkempt property, which contained a gas station and garage until the the bridge closed in 2001 while a new bridge was being built, will be auctioned off to the highest bidder. That is according to a large sign that recently appeared on a chain-linked fence surrounding the parcel at 236 S. Elm St.

The land, next the Comeau Bridge and on the Bradford side of the river, is strewn with debris and overrun with large weeds. A sagging fence there is decorated with several political campaign signs.

The sign advertising the auction says the owners are accepting sealed bids until Oct. 2.

Mayor James Fiorentini said he is "thrilled" to see the property will be redeveloped. He said he will work with any potential buyer to "redevelop the site and protect the public's interest."

"The city has things we would like to see there, but I do not want to say anything that would impede a potential sale," Fiorentini said. "What we do not want is what we have now: an abandoned and unsightly gas station. ... The ultimate use of this property will be determined by market forces, not by the government."

The mayor said he is hopeful that redevelopment of the property might lead to a larger development that would include the nearby city-owned Ornstein Heel property, a former factory that is now empty. The Getty property and the Ornstein property are separated by the Skateland roller skating rink across from the Bradford train station. All three parcels are on the river bank.

The city seized the sprawling, wooded Orstein property for nonpayment of taxes after several industrial buildings on the sire were demolished in 1994. A proposal by a company called Merrimack Towers to buy the property for $3.4 million and build condominiums in three buildings overlooking the river collapsed with the local real estate market several years ago. The city has been seeking a new buyer ever since.

Haverhill has been working on a special waterfront zone that would give developer's incentives to provide public access to prime properties along the river, but Fiorentini said the Getty and Ornstein parcels are outside the proposed zone.

When the Getty station closed, the owner said with the bridge under construction few cars were travelling through the area, so he wa