After several years of discussion, Haverhill is moving ahead with a search for a developer of the land around, and including, the Herbert H. Goecke Jr. Memorial Parking Deck.
That parking area was built between 1978 and 1981 in hopes it would spur development. The structure, now seen as an impediment to development, has been deteriorating over the years, costing the city about $225,000 in repairs during the last two years alone. At last night’s City Council meeting, Councilor Colin F. LePage said that it is time to put out a request for proposals to develop the area.
“This is something that has been sitting around for quite some time. I think this is the time that we should be looking at this and looking at advantages and see what we could possibly do and put out an RFP. Again, if it’s not something that we like, we don’t have to accept it,” he said.
Mayor James J. Fiorentini told the Council that, actually, he has been working on developing an RFP for a while; one that would open the area to a wide range of development possibilities.
“We want to cast as wide a net as possible and see if we can attract development to this prime site. I’m hoping to have an RFP in the central register on the street and, of course, a copy to the Council for this whole 3.8 acres,” he said.
The mayor admitted attracting developers to the downtown is difficult for a number of reasons, including a requirement for the city to provide infrastructure financing. He said Haverhill is not in the position to do that now.
“We can’t spend millions and millions of dollars on infrastructure downtown. We don’t have it and I am certainly not going to put this ahead of building a new Whittier School or a new Tilton School. So, what we are putting in the RFP is that we’re looking to partner with interested partners and developers and we’re going to be looking for people that have experience with getting MassWorks grants, federal earmarks or other types of grants that will partner with us,” the mayor said.
Fiorentini also said the city would also consider a District Improvement Financing plan where the city commits part of the increased tax revenue from an area to improving the infrastructure.