, Newburyport, MA

March 15, 2013

NRA awards borings job

GZA will study whether waterfront land can be developed


---- — NEWBURYPORT — The Newburyport Redevelopment Authority last night voted unanimously to award a contract for test borings on its 4.2 acres of riverfront land to GZA GeoEnvironmental Inc., with offices in Newburyport.

GZA had the low bid of $39,720. Other firms that submitted proposals were ESS Group and GPI of Waltham ($41,935), Weston & Sampson of Peabody ($56,800) and McPhail Associatons of Cambridge ($83,900).

The GZA proposal stated it would take and analyze borings from the east and west lots of the NRA property with the intent of determining the quality of the soil and the depth of the water table as these factors would relate to possible construction on the land.

The NRA is considering a “concept” from Union Studio in Providence that projects two commercial buildings that would include shops, restaurants and 30 to 35 condominium units.

Included in that vision is the creation of 66 parking spaces under the two structures.

NRA members as well as city planning director Andy Port said that test borings are necessary to determine whether such commercial buildings with underground parking would even be possible to construct on the land.

Most of the NRA land, located on either side of the Firehouse Center for the Performing Arts, is now used as parking lots.

The borings project will start in early to mid-April and we’ll probably see results by mid-May,” said Adam Guild, NRA board treasurer who analyzed the four proposals.

The administration of borings does not mean there will necessarily be construction. Test results could suggest the land is not suitable.

But it marks a step forward for the NRA, which has been considering the construction of commercial structures for more than a year. Members say that revenue generated by the private project would pay for creation and maintenance of a park and open space.

The Union Studio scenario, which NRA members insist is only a vision, calls for two buildings and close to 70,000 square feet of interior space.

The presence of commercial buildings is opposed by the Committee for an Open Waterfront, which has been saying it will produce an alternate plan.

Last night, COW leader Elizabeth Heath said that her group’s proposed plan — which calls for no structures on the waterfront land — is almost ready for public review.

The cost for the borings project is being paid by NRA, not the city. The NRA has about $185,000 in its treasury, officials said.

While the bid for the analysis went to GZA GeoEnvironmental, it appears its local division, Vine Associates, Inc. of 372 Merrimac St., will be doing much of the work. Vine Associates is a waterfront engineering firm with an office here since 1987.

GZA itself, based in Norwood, has about 550 employees in 24 offices throughout the Northeast, according to its website. GZA executives say they provide planning, permitting and civil, structural and remedial services.

The firm may ultimately contract with another company to do the actual borings, and that Vine and/or GZA would analyze the data.