Mayor Recognizes 150th Anniversary as a City; Says Successes of the Past Now Hinder the Future

U.S. Rep. Lori Trahan swears in Mayor James J. Fiorentini as Sen. Edward Markey looks on. (WHAV News photograph.)

Mayor James J. Fiorentini recognized an important milestone during his inaugural address Monday—not just his ninth swearing in as mayor, but Haverhill’s 150th anniversary as a city.

The reference was more than historical. The mayor made the point that the successes of Haverhill’s founding fathers are now out of date and require a course correction even while other factors remain the same.

“In those 150 years, we have gone from a small agricultural community to an industrial center, to where we are today, as a post-industrial city. Around the time when we became a city 150 years ago, some visionary city leaders unveiled new plans—to build new shoe factories, welcome new immigrants to our city as we today welcome new immigrants to our city,” he said.

He said the city’s proposed master plan—Haverhill Vision 2035—begins building the “Haverhill of tomorrow.” The city is well positioned to attract business—for those trying to escape the high costs of Boston or long worker commutes.

He said rearranging existing industrial parks—which now attract 6,000 workers daily—can add one-third more space for new businesses. He explained the large lots required by planners during the 1960s are now outmoded. He also speculated about building a new industrial park at an undisclosed location.

Rents are high here, Fiorentini said, because the state is falling short on building more housing—even enough to cover natural population growth. He said anti-development moods of 20 and 30 years ago have created the problem the city faces today. He explained the number of new single-family houses being built here is about half of what it was 20 years ago. He advocated building more housing for those 55 and older units as well as more units for young families.

Fiorentini said the city’s last master plan discouraged building on the city’s outskirts while encouraging downtown development. Now, he added, downtown is almost completely built out. The new plan reverses course.

In the short run, Haverhill’s school population is growing. However, he added, birth rates are dropping and school populations will soon follow.

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