Abandoned Building Behind City Hall Could Become Apartments

The former Clara Hunking Lab. of Haverhill High School as it appeared during the late 1950s. It was more recently a substance abuse treatment center.

A domestic arts class in the building at 20 Newcomb St. during the 1950s.

A domestic arts class in the building at 20 Newcomb St. during the 1950s.

The building behind City Hall where generations of Haverhill High School students learned how to undertake household chores could someday return to domestic purposes if the Haverhill Housing Authority gets its wish.

Known variably as the Clara Hunking Laboratory of Haverhill High School and the Clarke School, the 20 Newcomb St. building most recently served as Phoenix East, a drug rehabilitation home operated by the former Team Coordinating Agency. Used for 42 years by the agency, it became vacant in 2012 when state funding was lost. Haverhill Housing Authority Executive Director Joseph Hart told WHAV the building could become affordable housing.

“It’s something we’re looking at. We’d like to expand the supply of affordable housing in the city. And this site would be a natural and it would also solve the problem of what does the city do with this property,” Hart said.

Hart said, any “concrete action” at the building must wait at least a year since Haverhill District Court will need parking spaces there while its civil division temporarily relocates to City Hall. Hart added limited funding would make a renovation into several, smaller apartments less expensive and, in the short run, would be a faster route to reuse the building in light of rising rents.

HHS students learn house cleaning.

HHS students learn house cleaning.

“It seems like rents are rising in Haverhill kind of quickly and people are getting priced out. Our mission is to provide affordable housing and this would be a good project to fit with our mission,” Hart said.

Haverhill Public Schools took possession of the property, behind the then-Haverhill High School, in 1948. It was deeded to the school department, which retains control of it to this day, by the Estate of Charles A. Evans, according to records. Almost a decade after Haverhill High moved to Monument Street, then-Mayor James F. Waldron signed a lease in 1970 turning the building over to Phoenix East.

Before the housing authority’s plans can advance, David S. Van Dam, chief of staff to Mayor James J. Fiorentini said, the school department must transfer the property to the city. The city would then consider a surplus property declaration and, subsequently, undertake a bidding process.

4 thoughts on “Abandoned Building Behind City Hall Could Become Apartments

  1. One headline focuses parking issues and yes there are even prior to the court moving there. Second headline talks about housing in that same area.
    This city doesn’t know if it’s coming or going though I wish some would go

    • Affordable housing would DEFINITELY create more parking issues than we have now….. and WHERE would tenants and visitors park????? This in addition to City Hall, library, court house, and on-street parking issues.

      Would someone actually have considered this madness, or have our elected officials together with Joe Hart gone completely around the bend??