, Newburyport, MA

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September 19, 2013

NRA: Lots can be built upon

NEWBURYPORT — The Newburyport Redevelopment Authority and its engineers last night declared the riverfront land it owns is buildable, after test borings on the land were made public.

“This is good information that we have received,” said Adam Guild, NRA treasurer and a construction manager. “Buildings can be constructed on the east or west lot.”

At the end of the NRA’s public meeting, NRA members unanimously voted to “take the next step” and register the engineering firm’s findings with the state Department of Environmental Protection.

The NRA owns 4.2 acres of land on the central waterfront now used as parking lots, and its tentative vision is to build three structures totaling about 70,000 square feet. The three-story buildings would include shops, a restaurant and 30-35 condominium units.

NRA members in recent months reasoned that, in order to inform prospective developers and/or lenders about the nature of the soil there, they needed to get more data. So several months ago, they retained GZA Environmental, Inc. of Norwood and Newburyport to administer borings to determine if the land can accommodate structures.

The borings took place in early August, and engineers said they probed the land (closest to Merrimac Street) upon which structures would stand.

GZA last night reported back with a 400-page report.The NRA now has 120 days to register the information with the DEP. The long-awaited report of the borings results drew a standing-room-only crowd of about 75 residents for the NRA meeting to the library’s program room.

At least two factors were addressed by GZA: Is the soil “healthy enough” upon which to build public venues and residential units, and is the land elevated enough to weather concerns about flood-plain considerations.

The answers to both questions appeared to be in the affirmative, albeit with caveats.

Engineer Frank Vetere, an associate principal of GZA, stated that soil in both east and west lots is contaminated by its years of exposure to businesses ranging from coal yards to gas stations, but the foul soil can be excavated and removed.

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