Thursday, 4:30 PM
After false asbestos scare, Lawrence stops construction at $40-million development
(Joanne Rathe/Globe Staff/file)
Bob Ansin, shown above in February, halted construction today on a project to convert a former Lawrence mill into condos and retail stores.
By Russell Contreras, Globe Staff
LAWRENCE -- The developer of a massive loft and retail project in Lawrence announced today he was suspending construction because a California bank backed out of financing $40 million of the deal after a local newspaper reported incorrectly that asbestos was found in the building.
Robert D. Ansin said officials from United Commercial Bank of San Francisco were upset over the story that appeared in Sunday's edition of the North Andover-based Eagle-Tribune that reported that "workers in Tyvek suits and respirators were on site ... clearing the contaminated material out of the building." The paper later printed a correction.
Ansin said no asbestos was recently found inside the building. He said asbestos was found in a small pocket of soil outside of the building and was removed in half a day.
When asked about the decision to halt construction, Gretchen Putnam, the managing editor of the newspaper, read a statement. "We at the Eagle-Tribune stand by our reporting and our story," she said.
Now Ansin said it may take him three to 12 months to secure another bank loan because of the downturn in the real estate market. "We were almost there," said Ansin, who has not ruled out legal action against the Eagle-Tribune. "But we'll get the financing."
The paper also reported that subcontractors working on the Monarch on the Merrimack project haven't been paid in months because of cash problems, something Ansin said he was working on.
Ansin bought the Wood Worsted Mill in 2003 for roughly $4.5 million and wanted to build environmentally friendly condos on the 60-acre site. Located along the Merrimack River, the mill is the site of the famous "Bread and Roses Strike of 1912." Ansin has already spent $25 million of his own money on the project.
The 600 condos were expected to range in price from $250,000 to $500,000. A movie theater and retail stores were also planned.
Ansin said he has already informed the 55 or so buyers who've already put down deposits to purchase lofts of his decision to suspend construction. He said he is giving them the option of staying with the project or returning their deposit.
Buyers John Grange, 61, said he and his wife, Peg, are sticking by Ansin. "I'd be lying if I said I didn't have questions," said Grange, who plans on moving into the lofts as soon as they are finished. "But Bob has been very forthcoming and honest. I believe in his vision."