Downtown Haverhill Parking Remains Free as Commission Considers Waiting for 50% Capacity

Wicked Big Cafe and Essex Street Grille are among those restaurants that took advantage of outdoor space for dining during the pandemic. (WHAV News file photograph.)

Parking in downtown Haverhill will likely remain free for at least a little while longer.

The Central Business District Parking Commission this week agreed that, because of COVID-19 restrictions, now is not the best time to bring back paid parking. Councilor William J. Macek, one of the recently seated commissioners, told WHAV the city may follow the state’s lead.

“We’re going to look at it in our February meeting and see where things are at with the COVID. I suggest, and the mayor said he liked the idea, of tying it to at least a 50 percent capacity being allowed in restaurants,” Macek said.

Currently the state allows businesses to operate at only 25 percent capacity.

Macek also said the Commission is considering creating a number of 15- to 30-minute parking spaces throughout the downtown area. The plan which would help businesses such as restaurants offering take-out services.

“Caroline Pineau of The Stem is going to actually work with Capt. (Robert P.)  Pistone of the Police Department and also John Burke, our parking consultant, as she drafts up somewhat of a map of where it would help to have some short-term parking,” he added.

Macek said members also talked about replacing the current parking kiosks with newer models once paid parking is reinstated. He said new equipment would log a vehicle’s license plate number, eliminating the need for putting a sticker in the windshield.

Commissioners also agreed to suspend paid parking in some adjacent areas when the Farmers Market resumes later this year.

Parking Commission Chairman Karl Brunelle said the most important issue is making sure the public is aware of all the new changes before they are implemented. He explained residents have become accustomed to not having to think about where and how long they leave their vehicles.

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