Haverhill May Need to Invest in Merrimack Street Parking Deck Even as It Seeks to Demolish It

A number of parking spaces are off limits as a chunk of concrete had to be removed from the parking deck. (WHAV News photograph.)

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Although the city wants a developer to buy and demolish the downtown Haverhill parking deck, it requires emergency repairs to at least temporarily restore more than a dozen parking spaces.

Council President Melinda E. Barrett told her colleagues Tuesday she noticed a number of parking spaces at the Herbert H. Goecke Jr. Memorial Parking Deck are out of commission.

“There was a crack in the upper deck there so, subsequently, some metal plates were put down. We’ve lost maybe seven spots up top and maybe nine spots down below, behind the Pentucket Bank,” she said.

Councilors expressed concern about putting more money into the troubled structure since the city has extended until April a request for proposals to redevelop the entire area. Barrett said, while everyone hopes the deck will be replaced at some point, the reality is money is going to have to be spent before that just to keep the lot viable. There has been no interest expressed since the city solicited ideas for the site last September.

Besides the parking deck itself, the city is seeking proposals to develop a city-owned parking lot on How Street and a parcel adjacent to the police station—a total of 4.5 acres and valued at about $5 million.

Acting Public Works Director Robert E. Ward told councilors a large chunk of concrete came loose and had to be removed. He said he is talking with a company about what the actual repair work will cost.

“So at this point, we have an engineer that is giving us a proposal tomorrow. They’re going to come in and take a look at what they think the repair should be and give us an estimate on the repair. At that point, I’ll talk to the mayor and we’ll make a decision on how we want to proceed,” he said.

Ward told the Council he would return in two weeks with an update on the project.

Councilors noted it isn’t the first time the city has had to spend money on a building before demolishing it. The old Caleb Dustin Hunking School required emergency repairs to keep the building open while a new school was built.

Councilor Michael S. McGonagle also commented that, in addition to an estimate, the city should undertake an engineering study to make certain that both the upper and lower decks are safe and will last until the property is sold.

Councilor Joseph J. Bevilacqua noted the left and right sides of the parking garage were constructed separately. He said the right side also received additional reinforcements during the 1980s to accommodate expansion proposed by Crysen Limited Partnership—the then-developer of Pentucket Medical and the building that has become Pentucket Bank at White’s Corner.

The parking deck has a long history of problems dating back to the city’s Merrimack Street Urban Renewal project in 1975. Construction of the two-story garage began in 1978 and opened in 1986 with a dedication ceremony attended by then-Gov. Michael S. Dukakis.

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