Merrimack St. Plans Begin Dismantling 1970s Urban Renewal

Utile’s plan envisions replacing the Herbert H. Goecke Jr. Memorial Parking Deck and restoring a north-south road.

Two Merrimack Street parking areas could become hubs for continued downtown development.

Haverhill city councilors Tuesday night will be asked to bless a plan to invite developers to suggest reuses of the Herbert H. Goecke Memorial Parking Deck and the Riverfront Promenade parking area adjacent to Haverhill Bank. As was done during the 1980s, developers would be invited to submit proposals to redevelop the former urban renewal parcels as long as they replace any lost parking spaces. The city could reject, accept or suggest modifications to any proposals that might come forward.

“I would like to begin this process by seeing if developers are interested in any of the land on the lower end of Merrimack Street in order to invest in the city. Of course they would have to replicate any parking if they were to purchase or lease the land,” Mayor James J. Fiorentini wrote. “The ultimate authority to dispose of this land or any other land would always be up to the city council.”

In one order before the city council, Fiorentini is asking the council to declare surplus four city-owned lots making up the nearly one-acre parking lot near Haverhill Bank. A second item is expected to be considered under a suspension of the rules to also allow proposals for the parking deck and contiguous parcels in front.

In a letter to the council, Fiorentini said the redevelopment of the parcels is a “key recommendation” from a study by Utile, in conjunction with quasi-public agency MassDevelopment, to “explore whether or not private investors are interested in investing in any of the land which the city owns in the Merrimack Street area.” Economic Development and Planning Director William Pillsbury Jr. plans to attend the council meeting to answer questions.

“This is pointing us in the direction for major redevelopment,” Pillsbury told WHAV this morning. “It starts the ball rolling, begins to retake some ground (from the original urban renewal project of the 1970s).”

As WHAV reported last December, a draft downtown Transformative District Initiative (TDI) urban design plan suggested new residential-commercial development, extending or reconnecting cross-streets to the riverfront and added parking, including a replacement parking deck. Further public input was received during a series of “open house” gatherings. According to the draft plan, several privately owned parcels east of the Riverfront Promenade parking lot are also viewed as “potential redevelopment sites.”

Blocks Part of the Original Merrimack Street Urban Renewal Project

The Riverfront Promenade Parking Lot is bounded by what is now Rent-A-Center, 150 Merrimack St., and Haverhill Bank, 180 Merrimack St. Those buildings and contiguous parcels were first developed as part of the 1970s Merrimack Street Urban Renewal Project.

During that phase of urban renewal, a number of buildings were demolished and two streets, Sturgis Place and Chase Lane were vacated. The narrow streets ran between Merrimack Street and the Merrimack River flood wall. In its place, from left to right, Harmon Pet Center (now Rent-A-Center), the Riverfront Promenade Parking Lot, Haverhill Bank and George Kay’s (Katsaros) Crystal Lounge (now Ocasio’s True Martial Arts) were constructed.

The Utile study is the latest in a series over the decades to find fault with the original urban renewal program and suggest reimagining the lots. Similarly, the plan has raised doubts about the future of the Herbert H. Goecke Memorial Parking Deck near White’s Corner.

Also on Tuesday’s council agenda, two public hearings are scheduled on requests by developers for special permits. They include proposed construction by Wintervale Realty Trust and Birches Development LLC, of a four building, 120-unit residential development on Sterling Lane, off Farrwood Drive in the Ward Hill section. Also, a special permit is requested by Chinburg Properties on behalf of 16 Wingate Street LLC on a “mixed use” redevelopment proposal for a former factory building at 24 Essex St. Plans to bring 56 apartments and 6,000 square feet of first floor commercial space there, as well as the Sterling Lane plans, have received conditional favorable recommendations by the Haverhill Planning Board and Pillsbury.

The Haverhill City Council meets at 7 p.m., Tuesday, in Theodore A. Pelosi Jr. Council Chambers at Haverhill City Hall.

Riverfront Promenade Parking lot.

Riverfront Promenade Parking lot.

6 thoughts on “Merrimack St. Plans Begin Dismantling 1970s Urban Renewal

  1. I believe the goecke parking deck must remain in-tact and used for parking. the pentucket bank (old building) must be demolished along with barretts mess. more retail must be attracted somehow

    • Rich, I think I’ve figured out what he’s up to with all the new proposed housing in the city…especially his promoting of low income housing.
      Last year mayor taxman was elected by mayors across the state as president of The Massachusetts Mayor’s Association. It goes without saying that position mandates that the person holding it advocates for all of the brain dead liberal policies that are occurring in Massachusetts, and at the national level. Cities all across Massachusetts over the past few years have been subjected to taking 0bama refugees from all over the globe…Lynn, Springfield, Fall River, Brockton, Devens, The huge negative impact on those cities with the problems these refugees bring is putting a significant burden on those communities and the people that run them. Unless I missed it, as far as I know Haverhill has escaped having refugees locate within the city. This can’t sit well with the mayors throughout the state that elected Failurentini to that position. And it can’t last. The easiest way for him to deal with the politics of that situation it is to build out the housing inventory within the city. That enables him to then take on refugees and have the federal government subsidize not only the construction of the buildings, but also the future operating costs. It won’t matter that every community across the country where refugees have located have developed significant health problems within their communities (just last week it was reported that 4 out of every 5 Somolian refugees taken into this country is confirmed to have tuberculosis). Remember, this fraud aspires to higher office at the state level. What better way to suck up to Bacon Hill than to facilitate promotion of the liberal agenda at the national level?

      What else can it be? Can someone really be that stupid not to know all the costs new housing puts on a community?

      • The entire downtown is a taxpayer subsidy Jack. The new building has tenants all subsidized by the taxpayer. I am not even sure if the wood apartment building is paying taxes as it may be the Archdiocese. Just read this morning 53 more rentals will be going at 24 Essex st. Mr. Pillsbury states they will be market rates….until the owners cannot rent because there is no parking and then rents to low income.

  2. How is this even legal?
    Developers submit bids and then the city council decides to depose of the land or not? That process isn’t rife with cronyism and corruption, is it? Just like that mayor taxman can declare that the sale of public property is no longer subject to state laws mandating a sealed bid process?