NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

September 16, 2009

'Holdouts' threaten beach plan

Town manager says handful of property owners may kill project

SALISBURY — Some town officials are worried a handful of beach property "hold-outs" are not only stalling the Thompson Design Group's planned redevelopment of Salisbury Beach Center, but could ultimately kill it, causing the Thompson Group to drop the project altogether.

Town Manager Neil Harrington gave selectmen an update on the beach project at their meeting Monday night, saying the Thompson Group has successfully negotiated development agreements with about 90 percent of the property owners in the Beach Center's redevelopment area. But, about 10 percent of the property owners haven't signed with developers after two years of negotiations, and the "handful of hold-outs" threaten the project, Harrington said.

"If those property owners don't sign, they could kill the project," Harrington said. "Then, who knows what the repercussions will be for the people who prevent the project from happening."

Harrington said the Thompson's Group's planned redevelopment of the Beach Center would move along quickly once all the 70-plus property owners involved sign development options with the Cambridge-based development firm.

"Once (the Thompson Group) has site control, then they can get the financing and then move through the permitting process," Harrington said. "But if they don't (get site control), they could pull out."

In 2007, the Thompson Group — known for landmark redevelopments like Boston's Quincy Market and Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco — brought forward their intention to redevelop the Beach Center through a single vision that "would bring back the grandeur of Salisbury Beach."

Since then, many of the 73 property owners involved have signed on with the group, and the Thompson Group also purchased a $1 million Broadway property at auction.

Property owners who haven't signed include a few beach condominium owners, the Salisbury Beach Associates, and developers Robb Osinski and Jay Gallagher, who have control over the former Sidewalk Cafe at 25 Ocean Front South through a purchase and sale agreement with the current owner, Mark Finneral.

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