Haverhill City Council Sends U-Haul Packing Over Plans for RiversEdge Plaza; Aesthetics at Issue

Demolition at RiversEdge Plaza in 2018 to make way for Burger King. (WHAV News photograph.)

The Haverhill City Council voted Tuesday night to send U-Haul packing.

Members, in the words of Councilor John A. Michitson, said plans by U-Haul of Eastern Massachusetts for RiversEdge Plaza would make the place look like a “dump.” They complained about the proposed placement of metal self-storage containers, lack of landscaping and the generally poor appearance of the former storefront. A number of local residents attended the remote meeting to voice their opinions. One of them, Jay Ferrandini, said the city should share the blame.

“I suppose I’m just disappointed that the City of Haverhill couldn’t try harder to attract anything better to this space. This is a high traffic area surrounded by waterfront, beautiful parks, amazing fields and we’re going to fill it with a bunch of steel boxes. It just seems like we haven’t tried hard enough,” he said.

U-Haul submitted the proposal back in February to purchase and renovate the former Building 19 property at 211-219 Lincoln Ave. for self-storage, using 8,000 square feet of the parking lot for storage containers and rental trucks. The plan ran into snags from the beginning when City Engineer John H. Pettis III and the Haverhill Conservation Commission pointed out the building is located in a flood zone.

While councilors said they would like to see the building restored, the outside storage containers just did not fit in the neighborhood. Councilor Michael S. McGonagle agreed with a neighbor’s assessment that outside storage containers are a primary use of the business rather than an “accessory” as envisioned in the city code.

“The pods are just not a good idea and I think we’d just be throwing our ordinance out the window if we ignored it. It’s just a non-starter for me as well,” the councilor said.

The Council voted unanimously to reject the proposal although members did leave the door open to further consideration if the U-Haul company could find a way to work without the outdoor containers.

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