Harbor Place Achieves What Urban Renewal Could Not

Merrimack and Main Streets before urban renewal.

Merrimack and Main Streets before urban renewal.

If all goes as planned, Harbor Place will achieve what the 1960s and 70s urban renewal program could not.

The proposed $68 million project will result in the demolition of Woolworth’s and Pentucket Bank, among other buildings. The Merrimack Street Urban Renewal project intentionally spared Woolworth’s, Pentucket Bank, Haverhill Savings Bank (now TD Bank) and Haverhill National Bank (now Bank of America). Everything else between Wall Street on the South and Welcome Street on the north would have come down.

Woolworth’s was spared because it was then a relatively new building—only 20 years old. Pentucket Bank reluctantly moved to 35 Merrimack Street building in 1960 only after the city took its land in Washington Square for parking. During a recent Open Mike Show, Pentucket Bank Chairman Ken Smith explained the earlier fight saved the bank buildings.

We had close to a million dollars into that building and when urban renewal and Merrimack street came about, we just said ‘you think we had a fight over that parking lot, you’re in for one hell of a fight if you take this $1 million building that we just got done building and now you want to take it away from us and knock it down. We were going to fight tooth and nail on that one.’

Pentucket Bank will demolish its old building after it moves administrative offices into Harbor Place.

As it turns out, the Haverhill Housing Authority, which oversaw urban renewal, ran out of money. This spared other Merrimack Street buildings that now face the wrecking ball.

Urban renewal also ended such streets as Fleet, Court, Mechanics, Saltonstall and others. However, it will be Harbor Place that ends City Landing, Jacobs Street and Way Place. The earlier Pentucket Urban Renewal Project east of Main Street resulted in almost total destruction from the Merrimack River to Summer Street.

See also: Bank Survives Setbacks; Shapes City