Vargas, House Pass Economic Development Bill: $200K Earmarked for Downtown

An estimated $200,000 in state money could continue revitalization efforts in downtown Haverhill, Rep. Andy Vargas tells WHAV. (File photograph)

Freshman state Rep. Andy Vargas secured an estimated $275,000 in preliminary funding for Haverhill through the House passage of an economic development bill aimed at helping small businesses flourish in the downtown district.

The bond bill sets aside $100,000 to be put into a general fund to maintain and further develop Merrimack Street, with another $100,000 going to a grant program to subsidize rents for downtown businesses. Washington Street creative space The Switchboard took advantage of a similar rent subsidy program through MassDevelopment’s Lease It Local program, and the money secured with Vargas’ help rebuilds that account.

Vargas tells WHAV he worked closely with Haverhill’s Assistant Director of Economic Development Nate Robertson to allocate an additional $75,000 to commission a feasibility study of the former Dutton Airport parcels off of the city’s Route 108.

“There’s been talk of using (land) to test autonomous vehicles,” Vargas said.

Passed Tuesday, the bond bill is now set for a Senate vote before it is put in front of Gov. Charlie Baker for final approval.