Haverhill City Council Ponders Making Two Downtown Streets Pedestrian-Only During Events

A previous KidsFest in downtown Haverhill.

The City Council is considering a proposal to close a portion of downtown Haverhill to traffic on Friday and Saturday nights to help local restaurants and businesses.

Councilor Mary Ellen Daly O’Brien presented the idea last week, saying making Washington and Wingate Streets pedestrian only on weekends might be a needed shot in the arm for the city’s eateries and shops.

“This is something I’ve seen in other communities and I think, after this past year that, definitely our small business people as well as our restaurants, have really taken it in the shorts and I just thought this was something that would make downtown Haverhill even more accessible, and maybe we could try it around the time that we do River Ruckus or something,” she explained.

Councilor William J. Macek compared the idea to Bourbon Street in New Orleans and suggested, at least, giving it a try. Councilor Timothy J. Jordan backed the plan, but reminded the Council that, in the past, the fire department was averse to closing both streets at the same time.

Councilor Joseph J. Bevilacqua had a different take on the plan.

“The problem I see is that, first of all, we have a lack of available parking in the downtown so I think that, before we get to excited about this idea, we not only need to talk to the businesses but we need to also talk about the residents,” he said.

Council President Melinda E. Barrett also voiced concerns noting a similar project was discussed previously and there were issues.

“Different restaurants on Washington Street were very concerned because it would impact their take-out business. It also had some issues with people who lived at 70 Washington St. about not having access to their residence. I have some real misgivings about it,” she said.

Despite concerns, councilors voted unanimously to send the idea to the body’s Citizen’s Outreach Committee for consideration and to obtain feedback from affected businesses and residents in the area.

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