Developing a Different Product in the Merrimack Valley


Sal Lupoli

Title: Founder and CEO, Lupoli Companies

Age: 49

Experience: 27 years 

Sal Lupoli is sold on the future of the Merrimack Valley real estate market. The founder of the Sal’s Pizza and Salvatore’s restaurant chains has cooked up a second career as a real estate developer, restoring the massive Riverwalk mill complex in Lawrence into a multitenant office and medical complex. With housing costs spiraling in Boston, Lupoli is acquiring multifamily development sites near transit stops north of the city. Lupoli Cos.’ current portfolio of 4 million square feet is projected to surpass 5 million square feet in approximately two years. Lupoli also is the current chairman of the Merrimack Valley Chamber of Commerce.

Q: What’s the game plan for the Thorndike Mill redevelopment in Lowell?

A: We’re calling it Thorndike Exchange. It’s an existing 130,000-square-foot mill. It’s going to be connected to the (Lowell MBTA commuter rail) station. We’re going through the permitting process right now. Phase one will be 42 market-rate apartments, and 70,000 square feet of what I call job creation. Within that is two restaurants and one café. We’ll have in-house dining, delivery and concierge service. There will be seven penthouse apartments.

Similar to the Converse headquarters in Boston, we’ll add a floor of glass 17 feet high and illuminate it at nighttime. I want to signify there’s a different product in the Merrimack Valley, very slick and sexy, comparable to Boston. It costs too much to live in Boston today. We’ll have a sports bar, smaller restaurants, a rooftop garden and a roof bar.

Once phase one is 50 percent occupied, we’ll go back to our lenders with a detailed plan and pull the trigger on the next phase. Phase two is a freestanding new construction connected to the residential apartments.

Q: What did you like about the 145 Dascomb Road property in Andover?

A: It’s a former warehouse building. (Wholesale distributor) Restaurant Depot purchased it and sold two-thirds to me, 200,000 square feet and 16 acres that abut I-93 and the on-and-off ramp. It’s one of the last big parcels in Andover to develop. It’s commercially zoned for retail. We see this as a 500,000-square-foot mixed-use development: restaurants, high-end stores and some premium tenants, medical companies and a boutique hotel. We’d raze the 200,000 (square feet structure) and come back with probably nine buildings. We’re discussing residential with the town.

Q: What makes Gateway Cities a good real estate investment?

A: In the suburbs and Gateway Cities, you have these older, abandoned buildings that were the heartbeat of manufacturing. And it’s gone. You have these white elephants. We’re focusing on doubling down on these redevelopments. I’m in the hospitality business and we have a competitive advantage.

I’m 49 years old, been doing this for 27 years, and plan on doing it for another 30 years. We have the luxury of time. We can make investments and wait for our returns. We can work at reasonable fair returns as long as the communities partner with us. It’s location, location and location. As these cities like Boston start to over expand, where is the opportunity? The opportunity is on the periphery. The Merrimack Valley’s 27 cities and towns might be some of the most attractive space in the entire state   of Massachusetts.

Q: Downtown Haverhill is seeing an uptick of investment, with redevelopment projects such as Harbor Place and the J.M. Lofts. What are you proposing for 192 Merrimack St.?

A: It would be the first 10-story building in Haverhill in the last 30 years, on the banks of the Merrimack River. We’re 300 yards from the parking garage and the transportation center. We plan on having a restaurant on the first floor, 36 market-rate apartment units, and the balance mixed-use.

Q: What’s the future of the Hampton Beach Casino?

A: We acquired it in 2012. We’ll be unveiling very shortly something in excess of 300,000 square feet of redevelopment rights. We’ll have some year-round apartments and also going to try to incorporate commercial space. We want to prolong the season: you have to create jobs, and the other ancillary services will come along: the restaurants, the small retailers. We’ll create commercial space. I did a beta test and we brought in a small engineering company, TEC Inc. of Lawrence, which is expanding from 3,000 to 10,000 square feet, in the existing casino building.

Lupoli’s Favorite Football Players

  1. Tom Brady – QB (Patriots)
    “A true winner, leader and pro! I admire his ability to be an elite player for as long as he has due to his work ethic and determination.”
  2. Vince Wilfork – Defensive Lineman (Houston Texans)
    “As a defensive lineman, I marvel at his longevity at such a demanding position.”
  3. Luke Kuechly – Linebacker (Carolina Panthers)
    “I like that he’s a local kid (Boston College product) and that he is one of the best in the game because of his no-frills attitude.”
  4. J.J. Watt – Defensive Lineman (Houston Texans)
    “Being a former defensive lineman myself, I admire his skill set and am impressed by his dominance.”
  5. Malcolm Butler – Cornerback (Patriots)
    “This is a true underdog story about a guy who stepped up when his team needed in him in the biggest game of his life!”

By Steve Adams  •  August 7, 2016  •  Banker & Tradesman  •  Original Article