How Downtown Haverhill’s Biggest Deal Came Together

Developer Salvatore Lupoli confirmed his plans for a restaurant along the downtown riverfront boardwalk during Gov. Charlie Baker’s visit at the beginning of the month. (WHAV News photograph.)

It had been Haverhill’s worst-kept secret. For months, Lawrence developer Salvatore Lupoli had been circulating color posters that included a 10-story building in downtown Haverhill.

In early October, WHAV exclusively reported the Lupoli Companies bid $700,000 for a city-owned Merrimack Street parcel— the only firm to respond to the city’s request for proposals to redevelop a downtown parking lot between Haverhill Bank and Rent-A-Center. Officials were mum about the elephant in the room—parking spaces—until last night’s Haverhill City Council meeting.

“What the plan currently is, they would acquire that parcel and build a multi-story, mixed use structure on the parking lot. And the 192 building, the brick structure Mr. Lupoli owns, would be demolished and would be providing two levels of parking there, one underground level and one surface level of parking,” Haverhill Economic Development and Planning Director William Pillsbury said.

Lupoli told city councilors he has already leased five stories of the proposed building. He would own a restaurant on the first floor, but bring in “a spectrum” of companies to fill the rest of the space, including a medical device company and medical space. Instead of stopping there, he said, he believes he can fill an eight to 12-story building if given a year.

Well-Oiled Machine Quietly Links Seemingly Disparate Projects

Lupoli’s color poster, announcing “Haverhill Pre-Leasing” opportunities didn’t specify the location, but it was well-known the company already owned the former George Kay’s Crystal Lounge, 192 Merrimack St. It currently houses Ocasio’s True Martial Arts and a church.

Seemingly independent and disconnected, though, councilors were asked last May 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.” Specifically, selling space in front of Herbert H. Goecke Memorial Parking Deck and the Riverfront Promenade parking area next to Haverhill Bank was a “key recommendation” of a study by Utile, in conjunction with quasi-public agency MassDevelopment.

A final piece was put into place at the beginning of the month when Gov. Charlie Baker came to town with another $9 million MassWorks grant. Haverhill Rep. Brian S. Dempsey, whom Fiorentini referred to as “Santa Claus” for his work in bringing state investment to Haverhill, said the grant expands the downtown development footprint. As revealed Tuesday night, much of the public infrastructure needed to support Lupoli’s project will be paid with this state check.

Five councilors Tuesday night authorized Mayor James J. Fiorentini to negotiate and enter into both a purchase and sale agreement for the Promenade lot and a development agreement. The lot purchase price was set at $701,000. Pillsbury told WHAV a parking study is required as part of the agreements.

“They have to make sure there is adequate parking for whatever their ultimate build out … as a result of the project,” Pillsubry added.

Current plans, he said, also envision public park space at the parking garage.

“Some public bathrooms are envisioned there and a tie in to the boardwalk, so the boardwalk would be extended, a little under 100 feet from where it terminates now, further upriver. That boardwalk extension would be integrally tied in to the parking replacement that would go on that site,” Pillsbury said.

President John A. Michitson said Lupoli Companies operator Salvatore Lupoli brings a “top notch reputation” after his redevelopment of mill buildings in Lawrence which make up the Riverwalk property there.

“In Sal’s case it looks like a brand new building. Top notch, first class and that’s the reputation that he has. And so we’re thrilled he is going to be venturing into Haverhill with a very substantial project. He’s been working very closely with Mayor Fiorentini and Economic Development Director Bill Pillsbury,” Michitson said.

Michitson credited the Harbor Place construction project and recommendation from a Transformative Development Initiative (TDI) plan to allow new development down the street.

“He’s shooting for eight to 12 stories. That will all depend on his ability to secure renters.  I have a feeling Sal is going to be very successful and get the tallest of the buildings,” Michitson added.

Four councilors with business connections to the downtown—Joseph J. Bevilacqua, Michael S. McGonagle, Thomas J. Sullivan and Vice President Melinda E. Barrett—recused themselves and left council chambers during the deliberations.

One thought on “How Downtown Haverhill’s Biggest Deal Came Together