According to town bylaw, the Historical Commission must be notified of any plans to demolish a building 100 years or older and have the right to deem the building historically significant. They must then hold a public hearing within 30 days.
The public hearing on Bradstreet will be Thursday, Sep. 5.
"After listening to the public hearing and what the comments are, they have the option to delay demolition for up to 12 months for developer to meet with the Historical Commission and try to find some alt solution," Assistant Town Manager Ray Santilli said.
That would not be possible in the Bradstreet situation. The proposal process (which resulted in a deal made with Hearthstone Realty) requires that the plan for development be followed exactly.
But don't start dusting off the banisters at Bradstreet. Any delay by the Historical Commission would only be a delay and not likely to save the Bradstreet building from eventual demolition, Santilli said.
"All it means is the Historical Commission can place a 12-month delay, so if the developer waits 12 months and one day, they can demolish it," Santilli said. "According to what Hearthstone has said, they're willing to wait a year if they have to. The only way the building would be saved is if Hearthstone walked away, but even then another developer could submit a proposal and demolish the building."
Town Meeting 2012 voted to allow the selectmen to sell the property without caveats to save the building. A few months ago, selectmen voted to approve a deal with Hearthstone Realty, which plans to demolish the Bradstreet building and build an enlarged plaza area and retail space along Main Street, 9,500 square feet of office space on the second floor, 6 townhouses and 6 flats, and 73 total spaces.
Kathleen Szyska, chair of the North Andover Historical Commission, has maintained that the commission is opposed to the Hearthstone sale and sought to save the building.Selectman Tracy Watson, who voted to approve the deal with Hearthstone, said she plans to be at the public hearing.
"While I understand that folks have an emotional attachment to the Bradstreet School, I completely disagree with the notion that the building holds any historical value," Watson said. "It currently is not listed on any registry and I do not think it would be eligible to be. The building has been piecemealed over the years losing much of its original architectural value."
Then, Watson added, there is the cost of keeping the building for another year.
"It costs the town between $40,000 to $50,000 per year to maintain an empty building which truly has become an eyesore to the neighborhood it abuts," she said. "I fully support the tearing down the building and bringing new life to not only Main Street but the Saunders Street neighborhood as well."