SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

September 16, 2013

Beverly housing complex may expand

BY PAUL LEIGHTON
STAFF WRITER

---- — BEVERLY — A $20 million shopping plaza might not be the only development sparked by the proposed Brimbal Avenue interchange project.

Northridge Homes, a 98-unit housing complex between Brimbal Avenue and Sohier Road, is “very seriously” considering an expansion on its 15-acre site, according to the city’s funding application for the interchange project.

“(Northridge) may be the first housing entity to take advantage of improved egress (provided by the Brimbal Avenue project),” the application says.

A possible expansion at Northridge could add to the traffic concerns of residents who spoke out vehemently against a plan to build a $20 million shopping plaza on Brimbal Avenue, during a public hearing on Sept. 3. The hearing is scheduled to continue tonight at 8 at City Hall.

The shopping plaza is one of the key economic developments cited by the city as a reason the state should fund the $5.4 million first phase of the Brimbal Avenue project. In its application filed with the state on Thursday, the city for the first time also mentioned the possible expansion at Northridge Homes.

Asked how an expansion at Northridge would affect traffic in the area, Mayor Bill Scanlon said, “I would guess there’d have to be some impact.”

Northridge Homes is a housing cooperative in which residents share ownership through a corporation. It has a combination of low-, moderate- and market-price units.

Richard Woodbury, president of the Northridge board of directors, said the board is “exploring” the option of expanding.

“We have about 10 acres of open space,” he said. “In theory we could expand there if we ever needed to. It’s been indicated by the residents here that they want it to stay affordable for all people, so that’s what the board’s charge is. There is a need right now particularly for veterans’ housing. We have to explore it.”

Woodbury said any expansion would be “years away.”

“Nothing would be immediate,” he said.

Woodbury said Northridge is in favor of the Brimbal Avenue project because the work would include fixing a water pipe that runs through its property, and the new connector road would prevent future development next to the complex.

Phase one of the project involves moving the Sohier Road/Brimbal Avenue connector road closer to Northridge in order to prevent vehicles from backing up onto Route 128 during peak traffic times.

Roundabouts would be built at both ends of the new connector road to eliminate difficult left-hand turns. The project would also include widening of a stretch of Brimbal Avenue and adding new sidewalks, bike paths and a traffic light at the intersection of Brimbal and Herrick Street Extension.

For the project to proceed, the city needs a zoning change that would allow the shopping plaza to be built where the current connector road now lies. That zoning change will be the subject of tonight’s continued public hearing.

The city is applying for funding for phase one through the state’s MassWorks program, which pays for infrastructure improvements on the theory that they will lead to more housing and economic development.

Construction would start in March and take about a year, according to the city’s application.

Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or pleighton@salemnews.com.