Published in the December 10, 2015 edition
By BOB TUROSZ
NORTH READING — The town is now the owner of the remaining undeveloped portion of the former JT Berry property on Route 62, the former state rehabilitation center closed by the state in 1991.
The Selectmen voted 5–0 on Dec. 2 to sign a land disposition agreement with the state transferring ownership of the parcel, approximately 37 acres, to the town, which will now seek to market it for development. The town paid $1 for the land, located at 102 and 104 Lowell Rd., subject to the terms of the agreement and the town closed on the deal the next day at the Middlesex Registry of Deeds.
Under the terms of the agreement, the town and state will share the revenue from the redevelopment of the property, depending on the types of eventual use and the timeline over which that use occurs, explained Town Administrator Michael Gilleberto.
The town administrator lauded the efforts of State Rep. Brad Jones Jr. and Sen. Bruce Tarr in advocating for approval of land agreement and moving the approval bill through the legislative process.
The town’s Economic Development Committee has developed a Request For Proposals for a commercial broker to help market the property for development, Gilleberto said. The EDC hopes to complete the review and recommend a contract to the Selectmen sometime in January.
Selectman Michael Prisco, who spent a lot of time and effort on the land agreement, said acquiring the land from the state could “be the start of a new era for us. It will jump start our economic development.”
“It has been quite a long time since we took this on. This is a great opportunity for the town and right in line with our strategic plan to develop new commercial growth for the town. It’s not common to have a parcel of land that’s 37 acres and 85 percent buildable. That’s really good.” He thanked DCAM, the state’s Department of Capital Asset Management, for its cooperation in working with the town.
The next important step is the market study. When that’s complete, the Selectmen and the Community Planning Commission will jointly have important decisions on how to market the property.”
Prisco also thanked the Wilmington Planning Board for giving timely approval to new lot lines on an Approval Not Required plan for the property. (About four acres of the property are located in Wilmington and won’t be part of North Reading’s plans for the rest of the land going forward).
“We’re off and running. We have a lot of other opportunities to continue to explore but this is probably the largest one,” Prisco stated.
Selectman Stephen O’Leary recalled when the state decided to abandon the Berry property 24 years ago and said the town had been trying to get a “seat at the table” concerning the land’s future ever since.
Now, that’s happened. He credited the Patrick and Baker administrations for moving on the deal and Prisco for spending many hours “shepherding this thing through.”