For the Bradford neighborhood, Northpoint’s success has brought relief from worry about what would happen to the historic campus. Its brick buildings and crisscrossing footpaths bustled with activity for nearly 200 years, from 1804 to 2000, when the college closed because of dwindling enrollment. Then for eight years, uncertainty loomed over the area as mothballed facilities languished and prospective developers floated proposals that some feared would mar the character of the community.
“The buildings were severely deteriorating, and we were probably going to lose a tremendous asset to the city” if Zion had not located there, said William Pillsbury, Haverhill’s director of economic development and planning. “The arrival of Zion on the scene was a tremendous stabilizing factor.”
Northpoint continues to recruit students for about 100 available dorm rooms, and to restore the property’s aging buildings. When Crabtree retires in May and hands the presidency over to David Arnett, one of the new top administrator’s tasks will be to raise an estimated $7.5 million to restore a water-damaged theater building. Plans call for the refurbished facility to seat 600 — enough to convene the whole college community — and function as Northpoint’s chapel.
Meanwhile, students and faculty adapt to facilities in transition. They are in their second temporary chapel space, with portable chairs set up in a makeshift sanctuary that once served as the library’s lobby. It’s not ideal, Crabtree said, but it’s also not permanent.
What is permanent, it seems, is the presence of an academic community that’s been a boost to a range of area organizations. Students do internships at about 55 Haverhill area churches, for instance, and volunteer at homeless shelters and prisons. They also eat at local restaurants, such as Primo Pizza in Central Plaza.
When prospective students visit for semiannual events, Primo gets some of its biggest orders of the year according to owner Bart Forgetta.
“People will come in and ask why we’re so slammed,” said Forgetta. “I’ll tell them we’re doing 110 or 115 pizzas for the college. . . The exposure we get from that is just tremendous.”