NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

January 22, 2013

reNewed hope for Golden Triangle

Animal hospital eyes site as owners woo more developers

By Mac Cerullo
Staff Writer

---- — AMESBURY — Long hailed as an area ripe for redevelopment, the “Golden Triangle” region nestled between Interstates 495 and 95 has sat dormant for decades despite a litany of redevelopment proposals that never took off — until now.

About six months ago, signs advertising potential development opportunities within and across from the Golden Triangle began to pop up on Elm Street.

Christian Stallkamp, an associate with the commercial real estate company CBRE New England, said the signs were posted shortly after the property was formally put up for sale and have already garnered interest from developers.

There are currently three parcels being shopped; one retail and one hotel site near the Elm Street entrance to Carraigetown Market Place, and the 50-acre Golden Triangle parcel between the two highways. Stallkamp said several potential buyers have approached CBRE regarding all three parcels and discussions are ongoing.

“What’s unique about the parcel is that it appeals to a wide range of uses and we’ve had interest from a wide range of users,” Stallkamp said. “The parcel could accommodate warehouses, retail, big-box stores; it’s a great site for someone, it’s just finding the right tenant.”

One business that could relocate to the Golden Triangle in the near future is Amesbury Animal Hospital. The business that for years has been based at 230 Main St. is looking to build a new, more modern facility.

The City Council will soon begin discussing a proposed zoning amendment that would allow the animal hospital to relocate to 277 Elm St. within the Golden Triangle. The animal hospital has already signed a purchase and sales agreement pending approval of the zoning amendment.

According to its filed proposal, Amesbury Animal Hospital intends to construct an expanded building with more examination rooms and surgical suites on a portion of the 50-acre site. Joe Fahey, the city’s economic development director, said the hospital would subdivide a portion of the 50-acre parcel for itself and the rest would remain available for other developers.

The Golden Triangle land is owned by a series of partnerships primarily managed by Herb Sears, who has spent the past year or so finalizing the necessary permits needed to make the land as attractive to buyers as possible.

As of now, the hotel and retail sites are fully permitted. If a buyer was to come forward, construction could potentially begin shortly afterward. Some of the 50-acre parcel’s permitting has also been done, but additional permitting would need to be worked out once a buyer with a particular use steps forward, Stallkamp said.

Originally, the Golden Triangle was viewed as a prime piece of real estate that would attract some of the high-tech firms that were setting up shop in Massachusetts and bring thousands of dollars of revenue into the city.

Fahey said the expectation three decades ago was that the boom would eventually reach Amesbury after it worked its way along Routes 128 and 93 and then I-495. In anticipation, the city zoned the area especially for high-tech businesses, but none ever came.

Over the past decade, the city has worked to modify its zoning to expand the potential uses of the area. Some proposals had gained some steam before petering out. A recent example came in July 2011, when, in the middle of the permitting process, Archgrove Realty abandoned plans to build a hotel at 284 Elm St.

As the economy has improved, the potential for development has increased, but Stallkamp emphasized that no sales are imminent and each prospective buyer is still working to figure out if the Golden Triangle is right for them.

“A lot of that comes to the economy, since a lot of these interested parties are trying to figure out where they want to be in the next five to 10 years,” Stallkamp said. “As the economy improves, this parcel will come up on many businesses’ radar. There aren’t a lot of large parcels like it available.”