Historic Mansion Approved for Corporate Campus

Wednesday October 12, 2022

Photo: Stewart Lytle / The Town Common. The Mansion at 55 Waldingfield Road

IPSWICH — The town Planning Board voted four to one to allow an international optical research company to convert the historic Waldingfield estate into a corporate campus. 

But don’t expect work crews to descend immediately on the 40-acre estate at 55 Waldingfield Road, a quiet road near the Hamilton town line. The Friends of Waldingfield has promised to appeal the town’s approval to the state Land Court.

The Waldingfield estate was first built along the Ipswich River in 1638 and was rebuilt in 1929 after a fire destroyed much of the mansion.

Jeff Anderson, Mitchell Lowe, board chair Toni Mooradd and Carolyn Britt voted in favor. Helen Weatherall, who voted against the project, said, it is a “good project in the wrong location.” 

Noting the large number of Ipswich residents who oppose the project, Weatherall said, “I do not feel this project is in the best interest of the town.”

Ora’s president and chair Stuart Abelson thanked the board and “everyone who participated in the many conversations, meetings and lively debates that helped shape such a positive outcome, not only for Ora as a multigenerational, family-owned business, but also for the town of Ipswich. We at Ora are honored and humbled to be your newest neighbor — a role that we take neither lightly nor for granted. We look forward to joining this wonderful community as we work to restore 55 Waldingfield for the benefit of all.”

Abelson said Ora wants Waldingfield for its 200 employees in the Boston area to gather two or three days a week. Ora plans to bring the Italianate mansion up to code so it can be used as collaboration space for its employees.

Filed under the town’s great estate preservation bylaw, Ora’s plans are to demolish one building and rebuild a larger building for employees to use when staying overnight. Ora plans to add about 75,000 square feet of floor space.

Ora said it will set aside 28 acres, or 70 percent, of the land as protected open space. It is adjacent to the 59-acre Julia Bird Reservation. A new, mile-long hiking trail around the property will be open to the public, and more parking will be available.

Horses will continue to live in the barn and will be available to Ora’s workers.

During the two-years of hearings, Abelson said the nature of corporate work is changing. There is no longer the need for employees to be concentrated in the same location five days a week.

The environment for employees is also changing, he said. “Instead of walks around the parking lot, hanging around the water cooler and drinking crappy coffee to bond, why not go down and throw a line in the Ipswich River? Saddle up a couple of horses?” 

To reduce the number of cars using Waldingfield Road, a designated scenic road, Ora plans to lease 30 parking spaces from EBSCO in downtown Ipswich and shuttle employees to the corporate campus. There will be parking for about 90 cars on site.

A traffic study showed that 1,645 vehicles a day use the road that leads to the estate. Ora employees would add 33 cars and delivery trucks in the morning and 25 in the evening. The board ruled, “The project will not create unsafe conditions on Waldingfield Road or surrounding intersections and roads.”

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