Domino’s Pizza, Shops Could Replace Iconic Main St. Church

Architect’s rendering of proposed retail building at the corner of Main and Winter Streets.

A vintage postcard displays the church with the the former Haverhill High School at rear.

A vintage postcard displays the church with the the former Haverhill High School at rear.

A Domino’s Pizza franchise and up to three small shops could replace the iconic St. Gregory the Illuminator Armenian Church at the corner of Winter and Main Streets, across from Haverhill City Hall.

The proposal to demolish the church and replace it with a strip shopping center is before the Haverhill Historic Commission this Thursday, June 9, at 6 p.m., in room 301, Haverhill City Hall. A formal public hearing on the proposal will be scheduled at a later date. Under the city charter, the commission’s role is advisory only. Unlike a previous plan to locate a Burger King at the intersection, formally known as Atwood Square, the Domino’s proposal requires no zoning variances and may be allowed by right. Burger King required permission from the Haverhill Zoning Board of Appeals to construct a drive-up. Although the church building, which has a storied past, is considered historic, there may be no legal prohibitions against demolishing it.

Plans call for the current owner of the Domino’s franchise at 57 Dudley St. to relocate from rented space to the new development at 110 Main St. Meanwhile, St. Gregory the Illuminator Armenian Church is looking to complete building a new church in Ward Hill, near the North Andover border.

The church building is a descendant of Haverhill’s founding church. The First Parish Unitarian, which over the centuries had several buildings of worship around the city common and downtown beginning in 1645, vacated the property in 1926 when it began meeting within the Universalist Church on Kenoza Avenue. The two congregations merged in 1950, forming the Universalist-Unitarian Church of Haverhill. The church once faced the common—now known as GAR Park—and was rotated to face Main Street.

Haverhill’s City Code lists three historic districts, Rocks Village, Bradford Common and Washington Street, governed by district commissions, that play a role in demolition decisions. Information about a proposed Main Street District, however, does not appear in city codes.

“No building or structure within a historic district shall be constructed, demolished, moved or altered in any way that affects exterior architectural features…unless the commission shall first have issued a certificate of appropriateness, a certificate of hardship or a certificate of nonapplicability with respect to such construction, alteration, demolition or movement,” chapter 54 of Haverhill City Codes states when an historic district commission is formed.

Members of the Haverhill Historic Commission include E. Phillip Brown, chairman; M. Eva Rajczyk; Tom Wylie; Edgar Movsesian; Mark Nystedt; and Kerry Fitzgerald.

13 thoughts on “Domino’s Pizza, Shops Could Replace Iconic Main St. Church

  1. I suppose it makes more economic sense to let old churches and synagogues sit and crumble so we can preserve “memory”.
    I suppose it makes more economic sense to waste tax opportunity and jobs in a city where homeless live in boxes and a high school loses its accreditation.
    Our children can get an education but man see that old church over there that hasn’t been used in decades?
    Cheap pizza? Burger King? Who cares? Your opinion of what ever business goes in and renovates that area is irrelevant!
    You don’t have to like it to have it help the city.
    If that congregation wanted that church it wouldn’t be for sale. What right do any of us have to dictate or oppose what they want to do.
    We are gong to fall back on the value argument and the religious argument and then in the same breath oppose American freedom or Ignore gods word to love thy neighbor as thyself as long as thy neighbor doesn’t make cheap pizza!

  2. Makes economic sense to buy up old churches and synagogues and replace them with Dunkin’ Donuts, CVSs and Domino’s Pizzas. Our values. An Armenian church? Used by people fleeing the Armenian genocide?

    What use is Memory when cheap pizza is to be had?

  3. Domino’s is disgusting and there are plenty of poor quality food places in Haverhill. Build something better please, this city has too many small junk plazas with unused spaces and pharmacies.

  4. Although the building remains unused building a plaza with a Dominos is an absurd idea. Who wants to see yet another
    fast food and cheap plaza built. That would awful there. One would think that Haverhill would’ve leaned their lesson after having gone nuts with the wrecking ball and demolished a lot of historical buildings. It seems like something could be done to save the building. We got lucky by keeping Burger King out. There are plenty of other places in the city in
    which the plaza could be built!

    • What exactly constitutes an absurd idea? Assuming “something” can be done to save the building? Assuming the plaza would be cheap?
      Taking the edge of an area of the city which is in disarray to begin with and creating urban renovation that can spread is absurd? And none of this on the city’s dime?
      Shall we have nostalgic city landmarks crumbling from neglect?
      A church is a place people gather to worship, Haverhill has them in industrial parks, if a congregation left and one got turned into a Walmart no one would bat an eye.
      The people make the church not the building!

  5. The building is being wasted, if it is going to be a church again so be it but if not then let’s continue to have the city move forward.
    More businesses equals more taxes and more JOBS.
    As it sits it helps no one!

  6. The congregation has been wanting this for a long time. Let them build their new church. That property that is now NOT paying taxes, pay taxes !