Lupoli Downtown Tower Project Now Depends on $1.1 Million in City Borrowing

The complicated Lupoli plan is split across two parcels with Haverhill Bank between them.(Architect’s drawing.)

Architect’s rendering of “The Heights.”

Movement on Salvatore Lupoli’s $30 million “The Heights” project in downtown Haverhill has halted, but could move ahead if city councilors agree to cover a $1 million shortfall.

The gap relates to the proposed extension of the city-owned riverfront Rep. Brian S. Dempsey Boardwalk and two-level parking deck at 192 Merrimack St. Councilors will be asked next week to borrow $1.1 million to pay for those public portions of the project, Mayor James J. Fiorentini confirmed when asked by WHAV.

“This is one of the best projects to ever come to Haverhill. There will be 200 jobs and it will create more parking,” the mayor said, justifying the borrowing cost. For Lupoli’s 10-story mixed commercial and residential project to move ahead, Fiorentini said, the city must expand the boardwalk to Washington Square and build a 59-space parking deck.

The city planned to use a series of state MassWorks grants to build the public spaces, but a combination of one grant expiring and bids coming in higher than three-year-old estimates created the shortfall, Fiorentini said. The mayor and Lupoli plan to appear before councilors to make their cases for borrowing the difference.

Economic Development and Planning Director William Pillsbury blamed the city’s downtown successes for the shortfall. He explained the nearly back-to-back Harbor Place and Lupoli projects forced the city to change boardwalk plans to better integrate the two ventures. “It was a decision we had to roll the dice on,” Pillsbury told WHAV. “We did not want to have to build one and not have it compatible with the other.”

Unfortunately, the state would not extend the deadline for spending $548,000 from the 2015 grant.

Developer Salvatore Lupoli confirms plans for a restaurant along the downtown riverfront boardwalk during governor's visit. (WHAV News photograph.)

State officials, however, told WHAV the $8.9 million grant delivered by Gov. Charlie Baker in 2016 is unaffected. That grant calls for about $7 million for a second Harbor Place phase—market rate housing on the former site of Lahey Behavioral Health—and $2 million for the Lupoli project. Officials confirmed both contracts have been extended through June of next year.

The mayor said his plan is to borrow against Lupoli’s $701,000 purchase of the city’s Riverfront Promenade parking, located between Rent-A-Center and Haverhill Bank on Merrimack Street. Lupoli was the only bidder for the city parking lot during the fall of 2016. The balance will be borne by taxpayers, but offset by various project fees and future real estate taxes.

Lupoli could not be reached for comment before news deadline.

Site Plan Calls for Complex Layout

The complicated Lupoli plan is split across two parcels with Haverhill Bank between them. The eastern public parking lot, being sold by the city, is the site of the nine-story building. It will be set back from the street with a green space and small number of parking spaces. The westward lot most recently housed Ocasio’s True Martial Arts, but was demolished for the future parking deck.

Top level access from Merrimack Street is even with the street, while the lower area will accept cars from Elliott Place—the dead-end street between the Post Office and Franklin Block, 200 Merrimack St. Like the Herbert H. Goecke Jr. Memorial Parking Deck down the street, automobiles will not be able to travel between the upper and lower levels. However, stairs for pedestrian movement between the two floors is located in a proposed grassy area near the extended boardwalk.

The city will own the parking deck, but lease the land from Lupoli, Pillsbury said. There will be “cross easements” between the city and Lupoli, he added. He expects a net gain of parking spaces when construction is complete.