City Moves to Protect Main Street Church from Demolition

Drawing of proposed Domino’s pizza shop at the corner of Main and Winter Streets.

Haverhill City Councilor Thomas J. Sullivan.

Haverhill City Councilor Thomas J. Sullivan.

A proposal to bring a retail development, including a Domino’s Pizza shop, across from Haverhill City Hall has prompted a call to create a new Main Street historic district.

Haverhill city councilors, during a suspension of the rules Tuesday, placed on file for two weeks a proposed ordinance to set up a Main Street historic district under the Haverhill Historic Commission. The motion, from Councilor Thomas J. Sullivan, passed by a vote of 8 to 0. Council Vice President Melinda E. Barrett abstained. Sullivan told WHAV, with news of a proposal to demolish the St. Gregory the Illuminator Armenian Church building at Main and Winter streets and replace it with a strip shopping center, the proposed ordinance “would give the city more power to control what happens at that location.”

“I don’t know of any organized group looking to preserve the church. But the residents who found out have reached out to the mayor and to all the councilors, expressing their opposition to demolishing that historic structure and putting up a retail box-type property,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan noted neither permit requests nor applications have been filed on the development proposal scheduled to be discussed, as WHAV reported, during a meeting of the Haverhill Historic Commission at 6 p.m., Thursday, in room 301 at Haverhill City Hall. He said the argument could be made, in support of the historic district ordinance, the city “decimated a lot of our historic structures under the guise of urban renewal” in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Sullivan added the “thought of losing another one is unacceptable.”

“Have we not learned any lesson since the 60s and 70s? I hope we have. And I hope we can work with the developer – whoever they are – to come to a solution that will maintain the integrity of the historic structure. But also allow them to move forward, if they can move forward, using the existing structure,” Sullivan said.

As WHAV reported earlier this week, 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. 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.

Haverhill’s City Code already lists three historic districts, Rocks Village, Bradford Common and Washington Street, governed by district commissions, that play a role in demolition decisions.

“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.

2 thoughts on “City Moves to Protect Main Street Church from Demolition

  1. Oh GEEZUS. Here we go. Just make the whole city a historic district. The PEOPLE WHO OWN THE CHURCH WANT TO MOVE ! So have the city BUY THE BUILDING then they can do whatever they want to do with it ! Stop this 1984 Orwellian take over.