• Office of Rep. Vargas

Haverhill receives $750,000 downtown redevelopment grant


Note: This story was originally written by Mike LaBella and published in The Eagle-Tribune.


HAVERHILL — The city has received a $750,000 MassWorks grant to design a new and larger Merrimack Street parking garage – part of a sweeping redevelopment project to remake the eastern entrance to the downtown with a modern parking facility surrounded by new retail stores, professional offices, restaurants, housing and public spaces.


A public/private partnership between the city and a developer still to be chosen calls for rebuilding or removing and replacing the Goecke deck and includes a new, shared-use public parking facility. The Goecke garage was built in the late 1970s and has required a variety of expensive repairs in recent years.


“This is a critical first step in the replacing the old Goecke parking deck and transforming Merrimack Street,” Mayor James Fiorentini said. “The MassWorks grant is a signal that the state is ready and willing to be a partner with us on this transformational project.”


Fiorentini said the project has the potential to be as transformational as Lynnfield Common, Assembly Square in Somerville and Tuscan Village in Salem, New Hampshire.


William Pillsbury, the city’s economic and development director, said this project as well as other large development projects such as Harbor Place and Sal Lupoli’s “Heights” building all received support from MassWorks.


“We look at them as partnerships,” Pillsbury said, noting the grant will help jump start the project. “Many thanks to (Housing and Economic Development) Secretary Mike Kennealy and his MassWorks team for their continued support of the city’s efforts. They asked the city to provide the vision for the next phase of transformation in the Merrimack Street end of downtown, which we did, and this grant acknowledges the state’s belief in our vision and their willingness to partner with us to achieve it.”


The grant is part of MassWorks’ “Community One Stop for Growth” program and Haverhill’s award is one of 196 economic development grants totaling $88.6 million being distributed by the Baker-Polito Administration in Fiscal Year 2022.


The city was also invited to apply for another round of grant funding next year.


A committee including Haverhill city councilors, Fiorentini administration officials, local development experts and the city’s project consultant, Utile architects of Boston, is currently reviewing five proposals from the following real estate development firms that are in the running for the project: Dakota Partners, Inc.; Jefferson Apartment Group & Planning Office Urban Affairs; Lupoli Companies, LLC; Panifex LLC and Trinity Financial Inc.


All of the proposals include a mixed-use development, with emphasis on commercial, retail, and professional offices, and varying numbers of residential units. The proposals range from three to four new buildings, with between 16 and 28 new stores and offices.


The project footprint includes the Herbert H. Goecke Jr. Memorial Parking Garage and four additional Merrimack Street parcels that would be connected by a public space to the Merrimack River across the street.


Each developer proposes to replace the existing parking deck with a new parking structure with between 414 and 570 parking spaces.


Accessories include options for public parks, plazas, gardens, art exhibition areas and similar outdoor amenities.


Fiorentini said he has been working on plans to redevelop the Goecke garage into a large project to revitalize the Merrimack Street end of downtown for several years, including soliciting input from the Urban Land Institute and various consultants and land-use firms.


“To have five big, experienced companies interested and competing to develop this site is great news and more evidence of just how far our downtown has come and how optimistic everyone is about our present and future,” the mayor said.

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