NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

March 5, 2013

Condo plan breathes new life

Riverfront units to be built

By Mac Cerullo
Staff Writer

---- — AMESBURY — The Hatter’s Point Condominium Association has voted to revive Phase II of the Hatter’s Point Condominiums, which will open the door for developers to complete the revitalization of the old Merrimac Hat Factory that developer Bill Sullivan started more than a decade ago.

When the Hatter’s Point Condominiums were first conceived in the late 1990s, the plan was to convert the entire factory into luxury condo units overlooking the Merrimack River.

The first phase was completed in the mid-2000s, but after Sullivan’s death in 2008, the redevelopment process grinded to a halt and work never began on Phase II. About half of the huge complex was left in derelict condition, and remains so today.

According to Scott David of Tiger Property Services, who is helping field offers from prospective developers, the association had to wait until Sullivan’s development rights expired last summer before they could seek any other developers.

Once that happened, the association decided to revive Phase II and begin working toward an expansion that could nearly double the size of the Hatter’s Point Condominium complex.

“They’re sending out an offering memorandum to the developers who have shown interest,” David said.

Hatter’s Point is a 55-and-over community located on the banks of the Merrimack River at 60 Merrimac St. and currently consists of 44 condo units. David said the association’s goal is to completely redevelop what’s left of the old factory and add 36 to 40 new units to the complex, which is slightly less ambitious than Sullivan’s original plan.

At the time of his death, Sullivan’s plan consisted of 65 new units and an indoor parking garage. Given the building’s state of disrepair, the entire building was to be demolished with the exception of five exterior walls, which were to remain in order to preserve the historic exterior look of the building.

Over time, Mother Nature essentially took care of that on her own. A portion of the factory’s roof collapsed in 2009, exposing the interior of the building to the elements, and the resulting water damage prompted building inspector Denis Nadeau to have most of the building demolished over the next year.

Today, the only part of the old factory left standing is the exterior wall that fronts on Merrimac Street, with minimal features of the original building left intact.

“If you go around there’s nothing there. Some of the wooden building is still there, but the rest is gone,” Nadeau said. “It’s basically all false walls right now on the street.”

The Merrimac Hat Factory was once a thriving economic engine in Amesbury that manufactured hats worn by men and women around the globe. The factory closed its doors after over a century in business in 1970 and remained vacant until Sullivan began work on Hatter’s Point in 1999.

David said the factory’s location overlooking the Merrimack River makes it extremely attractive from a real estate perspective, and the association has already heard from developers interested in the project.

“They already have people who’ve shown interest, and if they are interested and get something put down on paper, they could start developing in the next year,” David said.

If a developer does emerge, Nadeau said the previous permits issued to Sullivan’s group had most likely expired, meaning the new firm would likely have to appear before the Planning Board before going ahead with any plans.