NEWBURY — Two groups looking to preserve a 12-acre parcel of land adjacent to the historic and revered Lower Green reached its half-million-dollar goal on Wednesday, just nine days before their deadline.
Grants from the Institution of Savings Charitable Foundation and Mary Alice Arakelian Foundation worth a total of $40,000 came through this week, tipping the total amount raised to $500,000.
The two grants mean Essex County Greenbelt Association can now purchase the land from Newburyport Dr. Sadru Hemani, who purchased the land as an investment decades ago and recently sought to subdivide the property.
In March 2010, the association signed an 18-month agreement with Hemani to raise $500,000 to buy the land and prevent development on the parcel. The association had until Sept. 30 to come up with the money.
"We knew we were coming up against a deadline," said David Santomenna, director of the association's land conservation and the project manager. "There was a fair amount of anxiety."
The association notified Hemani this week it will exercise its option to buy the land.
"We're going to own it as part of our system of conservation land; it will stay essentially as it is," Santomenna said. "People will not see much of a change (with the land), and that was the whole intent."
Viewed from High Road, the Lower Green and its Newman Farm Meadow backdrop have changed very little over the past 150 years.
The Lower Green, which is owned by the town, was the site of the original 1635 settlement and home to the first meetinghouse in the region.
Last fall, the green and its surrounding historic rural landscape were selected by Preservation Massachusetts to be on the state's 10 Most Endangered Historic Resources List.
The Greenbelt Association and the Save the Lower Green Committee joined forces to raise the money. Along with receiving grants from area nonprofits, the groups received donations from residents of Newbury, Newburyport, West Newbury and Rowley, and even descendants of Newbury's first settlers from as far away as the West Coast.
Ed Becker, the association's executive director, acknowledged the efforts of the Save the Lower Green Committee, a group of preservation advocates from Newbury and Newburyport.
"From their first event, Pumpkins on the Green, last fall, through a series of local presentations, house receptions, fairs and auctions, to the circulation of a short film produced by a local television professional, their enthusiasm for the project never wavered," Becker said.
Along with donations from more than 10,000 area residents, the association received grants from the National Trust for Historic Preservation's Eastern Massachusetts Preservation Fund.
Greenbelt anticipates buying the property before Nov. 30. A public celebration will be held at a later date.
"We look forward to publicly celebrating the successful completion of this campaign with the community and all who helped to make the Save the Lower Green initiative possible," Becker said.