Haverhill Appeals Board Grants Approvals to Reuse St. Joseph’s School; Nonprofit to Use Gym

Developer Jonathan Cody of Atlantis Investments and his lawyer, Russell Channen during a February 2020 meeting. (WHAV News photograph.)

Neighbor and parishioner support played a role last night in advancing plans to build 36 market rate apartments at the former St. Joseph’s School, near Lafayette Square.

Haverhill Board of Appeals members unanimously approved developer Jonathan Cody’s request for parking, lot size and open space variances. Cody said the St. Joseph name will be incorporated in the eventual name of the complex of 28 studios and eight one-bedroom apartments and an existing gymnasium leased to an unnamed local nonprofit. Neighborhood native Elaine Barker sung Cody’s and the project’s praises.

“And now, Jonathan has plans for St. Joseph’s School, bring life back to the 129-year-old structure with apartments and his care to retain many of its old features such as wide hallways, wooden floors and staircases,” Barker said.

Barker admitted she was devastated when the school closed in 2017 after four generations of her family went to school there and she, herself, graduated from St. Joseph’s in 1952. However, she said, Father John Bouchard would approve of the reuse with much of the same enthusiasm as when he hired eighth grade boys to clean bricks when the school added its auditorium in the 1950s.

Although city parking rules normally require 54 parking spaces, Cody believes one off-street parking space per apartment is enough and consistent with other downtown housing. He noted he purchased land on nearby Federal Street for gym and bowling alley parking which would also be available for tenants after hours. Although a nonprofit tenant for the gym has been identified, Cody acknowledged the possibility the bowling alley may not be able to be saved.

“The bowling alley is still up in the air. I’m not even sure if it is going to continue to be a bowling alley. I would love it to stay a bowling alley only because of the history of it, but I’m not sure it is going to be used as a bowling alley, ultimately,” he said.

Community Development Director Andrew K. Herlihy said Haverhill’s housing shortage requires a solution. “Please bear in mind from a 30,000-foot level, we hear a lot about parking, but we hear way more from people about housing. We have a very significant housing shortage. I would argue, trumps parking just on a general level.”

Appeals Board member Louise Bevilacqua noted the neighborhood is “very walkable,” with a church, dry cleaners and places to buy food.

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