State Makes Public Access to River a Harbor Place Priority

Plans Reveal 80 Housing Units

Environmental conditions recorded Friday provide the first detailed look at a developer’s Merrimack Street plans, and also require an array of protections for public access to the river.

The consortium, developing a block of buildings on the south side of Merrimack Street, revealed details about a second building that has not been widely discussed. It will contain 80 units of housing.

Conditions placed on the project by the state Department of Environmental Protection require the developers to “construct and maintain in good repair a network of public open space with no obstacles for safe, free and universally accessible public passage. All open space shall be accessible 24-hours-a-day with no gates or other barriers installed to impede pedestrian circulation.” Additional requirements include permanent public access easements to the shoreline with signs informing the public of these rights, nearly 3,000 square feet of space devoted to “Facilities of Public Accommodation” and no restrictions on public use of the Merrimack River.

“The Licensee shall not restrict the public’s right to use and to pass freely, for any lawful purpose, upon lands lying seaward of the low water mark. Said lands are held in trust by the commonwealth for the benefit of the public,” the state ordered.

Further, the state said, developers may not “place any gates, fences, or other structures on such areas in a manner that would impede or discourage the free flow of pedestrian movement thereon.”

Previous attention had been focused on the principal building replacing the former Woolworth’s Department store and adjoining space. That building is proposed to house UMass Lowell, Pentucket Bank offices, retail or restaurant space, 148 spaces of underground parking, a public plaza, outdoor dining areas and a 475-foot publicly accessible boardwalk.

Together, the two “mixed-use multi-story buildings” total 195,000 square feet, according to documents recorded with the Southern Essex District Registry of Deeds. The filing was related to an order of conditions, approved by the state Department of Environmental Protection, to protect the riverfront area.

Papers also revealed the area’s rich history. This includes an 1875 license granted by the Harbor & Lands Commission for a wharf, bulkhead, seawall and fill, a 1906 authorization for a timber wharf and a 1922 Department of Public Works license for a timber bulkhead.

The downtown developer is a consortium comprised of the Boston Archdiocese’s Planning Office for Urban Affairs, Greater Haverhill Foundation and Boston attorney Frank Giso III.

2 thoughts on “State Makes Public Access to River a Harbor Place Priority

  1. So, now we finally know! Between the 80 units of housing (Mayor Fiorentini hid, and the church lied about, how many residents would live there) and the state’s overnight public access requirement means this will be a tent city with people doing drugs in the open, turning out kids, crowding our schools and not paying taxes. Thank you Sally Cerasuolo and Team Haverhill for their “vision” of enriching themselves.