State Help for Downtown Could End Unless Haverhill Receives an Extension

MassDevelopment’s Transformative Development Initiative Fellow Noah Koretz. (WHAV News photograph.)

Consolidation of private parking lots near Bank of America was included in a June framework for downtown Haverhill.

For more than two years, Haverhill’s downtown redevelopment effort has received a boost from MassDevelopment’s Transformative Development Initiative. The help, which has ranged from a downtown framework to technical assistance and a Better Block concept to parking places, could come to an end next year unless the city receives an extension.

Haverhill was one of 10 former industrial communities—known as Gateway Cities—named to receive temporary help from the quasi-government finance agency. Haverhill was paired with TDI Fellow Noah Koretz, who has since been promoted as deputy director of the program. MassDevelopment is now taking applications to bring the program to four to six new districts. Haverhill has the option of seeking an extension or designating another area of the city for help.

“The Transformative Development Initiative is a comprehensive approach to stimulating growth in the Commonwealth’s Gateway Cities,” said Housing and Economic Development Secretary Jay Ash, who chairs MassDevelopment’s board. “From Pittsfield to Peabody, we’ve seen communities create opportunities for economic growth and neighborhood revitalization through the TDI District designation.”

A Better Block pop-up shop.

Back in May, one of the more public demonstrations of TDI was the construction of a temporary “Better Bock” along Merrimack Street. It featured pop-ups, entertainment and public art. The following month, Koretz unveiled for city councilors an ambitious Merrimack Street “framework” that would gradually restore north-south streets downtown, add buildings to fill in gaps in the streetscape and place more attention on the Merrimack River.

In August 2016, Gov. Charlie Baker signed An Act Relative to Job Creation and Workforce Development, which included $45 million to support TDI Districts.

“TDI’s first three years have taught us a great deal about how to approach economic development in the Commonwealth’s Gateway Cities,” said MassDevelopment President and CEO Lauren Liss. “TDI Districts are the heart of this program, as these areas – often in downtowns or critical commercial areas – lay the groundwork for community engagement and partnership.”