Haverhill Receives $2M Grant to Redesign Approaches to Comeau Bridge for 290-Unit Complex

Rendering of proposed plans for Ornsteen property adjacent to Skateland.

Potential traffic congestion—the primary objection raised to building 290 housing units at the Ornsteen Heel property in Bradford—is set to be addressed with a nearly $2 million state grant.

During a virtual presentation Thursday, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito said Haverhill is receiving a $1.95 million MassWorks grant for redesign of the intersection of South Elm Street, Blossom Street, Laurel Avenue and Railroad Avenue near the Comeau Bridge. She told Mayor James J. Fiorentini she understands the riverfront project is “near and dear” to his heart.

“I remember being in that neighborhood with you when they named the Bradford Rail Trail after you. I know this will bring new retail space and jobs and 290 housing units at that train station so that’s fantastic,” she said.

Meanwhile, Methuen is receiving $990,000 for replacement of the Charles Street retaining wall, while Lawrence receive $1.3 million to connect Parkside Housing Development with Ferrous Park.

Much of downtown Haverhill’s redevelopment took place as a result of previous MassWorks grants. Gov. Charlie Baker said this year’s program highly ranked projects in “advanced stage of planning and design” and help communities hardest hit by COVID-19 by stimulating economic recovery. He called MassWorks one of his favorite programs.

“It has tremendous capacity for flexibility and can be used to sort of make the final stitch of many projects happen,” the governor said.

According to Economic and Planning Director William Pillsbury Jr., preliminary plans call for relocating a portion Railroad Avenue at the Comeau Bridge, adding a traffic light there and at Laurel and South Elm Street and adjusting Laurel Avenue into a T-intersection. Across Comeau Bridge, he added, changes to the timing and cueing of traffic lights at Washington Street is also anticipated.

Back in June, Haverhill city councilors gave Fiorentini the go-ahead to sign a $1 million agreement to sell the city-owned, 4.8-acre parcel to the Procopio Company of Lynnfield. Besides apartments overlooking the Merrimack River, the development would include 10,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space, a garage, outdoor parking and a 60,000 square foot public park featuring an amphitheater, playground, a river walk and an area for launching kayaks and paddle boards.

Besides the Ornsteen property, developer Michael Procopio told councilors, he planned to buy both the land currently occupied by Skateland and the former gas station property near the Comeau Bridge.

Councilor William J. Macek was one of several councilors who expressed concern over traffic where a series of narrow roads converge at the Comeau Bridge.

“It is a project that is transformative for that area, for the city to have something like this. The only negative thing I’ve heard is that the traffic is going to be gridlock morning and afternoon and that’s the one thing, hopefully, you’re going to find a solution for, because I think it is the one thing that concerns people,” he said.

Following the governor’s announcement, Fiorentini said, “This public-private partnership is projected to generate $19.2 million for city coffers over the first 20 years in addition to creating a wonderful public park and recreational area along the river right across from our growing downtown.”

Approval of the final redevelopment plan is required by City Council before construction can begin.

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