Demolition crews have begun a $2.1 million project to finish razing and clearing the former Chestnut Junior High School, long vacant and destroyed in a fire last September.
City officials and North End residents gathered at the school site on Chestnut Street on Thursday, saying the project, that includes removing the underground foundations and asbestos, will leave the property as a prime site for redevelopment.
“I think the neighborhood for being very, very patient,” Mayor Domenic J. Sarno said.
The city partially demolished the school after the fire, to protect public safety, and then made plans for the full cleanup while making sure the project could be afforded with city funds through borrowing. The building is city-owned.
Associated Building Wreckers of Springfield was hired to finish the project, deemed the lowest bid meeting all specifications among seven bids received.
The cleanup should be completed by late August, and the city will then solicit proposals for redevelopment, officials said. Debris was being removed Thursday and the project will also entail demolishing a rear portion of the school and a condemned house across the street.
Kevin Kennedy, the city’s chief development officer, said potential redevelopment could be a residential project, medical buildings, or mixed uses, depending on the type of proposals received by the city for consideration.
Jose Claudio, a resident and member of the New North Citizens Council, said the city and neighborhood will confer on the future development of the site. The redevelopment is an opportunity for new tax revnues, and will have a positive impact on the neighborhood, he said.
Sarno said the site had been vacant for many years, and redevelopment efforts were unsuccessful. The fire was tragic, but “with tragedy, comes opportunity,” Sarno said.