Haverhill Councilors Agree to Move Lupoli Project Forward After Adopting Compromise Plan

Salvatore N. Lupoli addressed Haverhill city councilors Tuesday night, winning support for a compromise proposal allowing his $30 million project to move forward. (WHAV News photograph.)

Revised plan deletes a section of the planned parking deck on city land near the Post Office. Click for larger image.

A scaled back parking deck and a decision to take $500,000 out of the city’s rainy-day account brought to a close weeks of controversy surrounding Salvatore N. Lupoli’s plan to build a 10-story commercial and housing project in downtown Haverhill.

Mayor James J. Fiorentini told city councilors Tuesday night using $500,000 out of the city roughly $5 million emergency bank instead of a $1.12 million loan saves the city an estimated $420,000 in interest. The half million will be earmarked to completing the city’s riverfront boardwalk. Cutting off one-third of the parking deck also means there is enough money in a previous state MassWorks grant to pay for the reduced project. The mayor said the Lupoli plan is a true private-public partnership.

Boston architect Al Spagnolo gave councilors a virtual tour of the $30 million project. (Courtesy rendering.)

“Where the Lupoli Companies would invest $30 million in our city, the state through the MassWorks grant would invest about a million, and the city would invest—my proposal two weeks, ago $1.12 million to extend the boardwalk and build a public parking deck,” the mayor said.  “After conferring with Mr. Lupoli, I have a modified proposal to make this evening that the city invest only in the boardwalk at a reduced cost of $500,000.”

Responding to questions posed by councilors two weeks ago, the mayor said Lupoli’s project needs less public support than other downtown ventures.

“This is, in total, the least subsidized of any of the downtown projects. The earlier projects, like the Cordovan and Hamel Mill Lofts benefit from millions of dollars in tax credits and an $11 million publicly funded parking garage. Harbor Place has about a $20 million investment in state money thanks to the great work of Rep. (Brian S.) Dempsey, and they’ve received much, much more in city subsidies than is being requested here.”

Fiorentini said Lupoli would maintain and control the parking deck to be built entirely on his property at 192 Merrimack St. City-owned property behind the Franklin Block, 200 Merrimack St., will continue to be used as a surface parking lot.

For his part, Lupoli and Boston architect Al Spagnolo wowed councilors with a three-dimensional virtual tour of his $30 million project. The ground floor will house a Salvatore’s restaurant, Northern Essex Community College’s culinary institute will occupy the second and third floors, 42 luxury apartments will be built on floors four through none and a “sky lounge” will operate at the top.

“This project rivals anything I’ve seen in Boston. That’s a big statement,” he said.

Development Plan Spreads Across Merrimack Street

Lupoli also announced he had already purchased another building at 133 Merrimack St., next to TD Bank, to demonstrate his commitment to downtown Haverhill. While the building will eventually be demolished, it will house Spagnolo’s “Virtual Design and Construction” team.

Lupoli has made two payments totaling $137,666.67 toward the $701,000 cost of buying the city’s riverfront parking lot. Lupoli told WHAV he will continue making payments under a sort of mortgage with the city. Economic and Planning Director William Pillsbury confirmed an agreement with the developer has been filed with the Southern Essex Registry of Deeds.

Councilors, previously banned from voting on downtown projects because of their businesses or property ownership, were allowed to vote on the project under a “rule of necessity” exception in state ethics rules. Despite the exception, Councilor Joseph J. Bevilacqua chose not to participate. He explained his son works for Lupoli Companies; Lupoli, himself, is chairman of the Merrimack Valley Chamber of Council, where Bevilacqua works; and the councilor is a director of Haverhill Bank, which is located between the two Lupoli parcels.

In the end, the revised plan to take money from the city’s rainy-day fund instead of borrowing through a bond was approved by councilors 8-0.

The meeting was broadcast live by 97.9 WHAV FM.