Owners Ask Haverhill Council to Revisit Request to Convert Downtown Storefront to Apartments

Arrowpoint’s David Lamattina and Jay Goldberg. (WHAV News photograph.)

Click image for Haverhill City Council agenda.

A remaining storefront on the south side of Water Street would become eight apartments if the Haverhill City Council tonight steps back from a conviction it declared two years ago.

The owners of the nine-story 1 Water St. building—already facing opposition from one city department—plans to convert an existing commercial space to bring the total number of residences in the building from 164 to 172.

“The creation and preservation of street level commercial space in our downtown is critical to providing the mix of commercial uses to complement the expanding commercial/residential base in downtown,” Economic Development and Planning Director William Pillsbury Jr. wrote in a letter to city councilors.

Two years ago, councilors approved a compromise allowing one commercial space with no street frontage to be converted into three apartments. At the time, Arrowpoint Burlington principals Jay Goldberg and David Lamattina argued they have been unsuccessful in either finding commercial tenants for the space or securing additional parking from the city. Agreeing to the compromise, they said they will still see a net gain of their own parking places by taking nine away from the retail space. This time, the owners say removing the storefront will make 21 commercial parking spaces available for tenants.

Pillsbury said his office regularly passes on leads for commercial tenants and would work with the owners if they provide listing information.

Atherton Furniture Co., 1 Bridge St., Haverhill, facing the Basiliere Bridge, was demolished as part of the city’s Pentucket Urban Renewal program. (Photograph courtesy of David J. Connolly.)

The requirement to have first-floor retail units dates back to the ill-fated Pentucket Urban Renewal Project of the 1960s. After demolishing nearly everything between Wall Street at the river’s edge to Summer Street, and between Main and Mill Streets, the city found few interested in building a new merchandising center. Under pressure to build on what was then called the “dustbowl,” the Haverhill Housing Authority filled the district with senior housing, a nursing home, a strip shopping center and the nine-story apartment building. To save some vestige of storefronts in the once-thriving shopping district, 1 Water St. was required to have ground floor commercial space.

Two years ago, Councilors Melinda E. Barrett and Joseph J. Bevilacqua opposed any conversion with Bevilacqua noting the ground floor commercial rule has been applied on Washington and Merrimack Streets.

“We have established, as councilors have discussed, a criteria that residential would be permitted on the upper levels, but that we would maintain retail or office on the lower level—the street level—so, in fact, it is a commercial district,” he said.

Ironically, the 1 Water St. building has been renamed as the “Atherton,” an apparent throwback to the previously demolished Atherton Furniture Co. on the same lot, but facing Bridge Street.

In other business before the City Council, Bevilacqua is asking that residents who do not work for the city be able to have a say in “how to best spend” the more than $38 million coming to the city in federal COVID-19 relief aid.

The City Council meets at 7 p.m., online and in the Theodore A. Pelosi Jr. City Council Chambers, room 202, City Hall, 4 Summer St., Haverhill. As a public service, 97.9 WHAV plans to carry the meeting live.

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