The builders of the town's first school in 1894 knew they were giving future students one of the best views of the harbor.
But they probably never dreamed that 120 years later condominiums built to take advantage of that same view might be valued at $2 million.
The 41 condominiums proposed for the old Middle School site at 71 Greenwood Ave. would be priced from the $300,000s with the penthouses being listed at $2 million, Bill DiMento, the attorney for Groom Construction, said Monday night.
That is, if the new condos win approval from two town boards.
About 40 residents showed up for the Planning Board's first public hearing on the proposed condominiums Monday night at the Senior Center. The Zoning Board of Appeals will meet on the same project next week.
Together the Planning and Zoning Boards have broad authority over the design and scope of the condominium building.
Architect Jim Velleco with Grazad Velleco of Marblehead described the four-story, 104,000-square-foot project as "more open to the sky" than the existing middle school building. "It will provide a good feeling," he said.
Neighbor Ellie Miller disagreed. "There are only 41 residents in the whole neighborhood. Another 41 units will destroy us," she said.
Groom Construction's land planner and architect said the new building will be much smaller than the old Middle School. The new linear-style building will be 86 feet wide facing Greenwood Ave., as compared to the long vacant school building, which is 186 feet wide.
The new residential building will be 11 feet lower at its peak and three feet lower at its base than the school building, Velleco said.
20 percent smaller
Its footprint will be about 20 percent less than the school's, and it will be about 100 feet away from the property line abutting the six homes on Greenwood Terrace, Bill Bergeron with Hayes Engineering said.
Ken Shutzer, an attorney for 10 of the neighbors of the project, told the board it did not matter that the new condo building would be smaller or shorter than the old school building.
The school building is going to be razed. The question the board has to decide, Shutzer said, is whether the proposed 41-unit building is compatible with the neighborhood.
Since there are mostly single-family houses in the neighborhood, he said, "There is no way looking at Greenwood Avenue that this building fits the character of the neighborhood."
The neighbors are concerned about the density of the project and the impacts it will have on flooding, traffic and noise.
The runoff water, which now cascades off the rear of the property, would be controlled with catch basins and piping that directs the water into the storm sewer system, Groom's team of experts said. The new drainage system would help relieve some of the flooding issues of the neighborhood, they said.
A traffic study estimates that the 41 units and possibly 82 cars would produce a manageable 25 trips during the morning rush hour and 29 in the afternoon. During weekdays the condos would produce less than 300 vehicle trips per day.
When Bergeron said the traffic study shows there will be "no preceptable impact on traffic in the neighborhood," the crowd gasped.
Most of the neighbors fear that the 41 new units will exacerbate the high volume of traffic in the neighborhood.
Myron Stone, who spoke in favor of the project, said the traffic at the residences could not be worse than it was when the school was operating.
Other supporters said they were tired of looking at the old school building and thought the new project would look fine.
Some neighbors were concerned that half of the parking spaces and the garage entrance to the other half of the 87 parking spaces were on the north side of the building, which abuts Greenwood Terrace. They wanted more trees and landscaping to protect their backyards from the noise and lights of the cars.
The Planning Board, after listening to more than an hour of debate on the project, continued the hearing until its meeting on August 13.