Demolition Underway at Gerson Furniture Building; Veterans’ Housing Coming in 2020

The former Gerson furniture building on Washington Street as pictured in December 2018. (WHAV News photograph)

Haverhill residents passing by Washington Street’s Gerson Furniture building in the coming weeks will begin to see big changes as demolition begins in earnest and construction of a parking garage and 44-units of veterans’ housing takes shape.

Headed by Waltham-based Delphi Construction, the project brings to fruition a longstanding commitment by Haverhill’s Veterans Northeast Outreach Center to house local vets and their families.

John E. Ratka poses with Mayor James J. Fiorentini in an undated file photograph.

As Delphi project superintendent Mike Mills tells WHAV, the last of three buildings at the intersection of Washington and River Streets is being demolished next week to make way for one, two and three-bedroom properties that will sit on 46,000 square feet of space backed by the nonprofit Coalition for a Better Acre.

Mills joins a crew of six day-to-day workers on-site, with additional crews expected to sign on in the coming months. First up after demolition—estimated to take seven weeks—is the creation of the 56-space parking lot. Once that is sorted, Mills said, passersby will see the building’s steel and wood framing begin.

All told, the project is projected to wrap up in March 2020 so that the housing can be turned over to Veterans Northeast Outreach, offering priority to low-income veterans and families. A 2,000 square-foot commercial space is also available for rent on the lower level.

The Gerson project is the second time the Coalition for a Better Acre partnered with VNOC to develop Haverhill-based veterans’ housing. Twenty-seven units were made available on Reed, Temple and Tremont Streets, with tenants able to utilize services from VNOC including job training, community meals and wellness classes.

Though nothing has been confirmed, Mark Horne from the Coalition for a Better Acre tells WHAV the group intends to “do whatever we can” to memorialize the legacy of John E. Ratka, the driving force behind the three-year partnership with VNOC. Ratka, who served as VNOC’s executive director, died suddenly in January at age 65.

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