State Awards Haverhill $750,000 Grant to Replace Downtown Garage; City Calls it ‘Signal’ to Developers

Trinity Financial of Boston plan.

Haverhill is sending a “signal” to five prospective downtown developers that it will contribute to the project by helping to construct a replacement parking garage.

The city was awarded $750,000 in a state MassWorks grant to design a new and larger Merrimack Street garage to replace the Herbert H. Goecke Jr. Memorial Parking Deck. The state program has previously made possible the street’s “transformative” developments, Harbor Place and the Heights.

“This is a critical first step in the replacing the old Goecke parking deck and transforming Merrimack Street,” Mayor James J. Fiorentini said. “The MassWorks grant is signal that the state is ready and willing to be a partner with us on this transformational project.”

A Merrimack Street Redevelopment Committee is currently weighing five competing proposals for a second chance at undoing the 1970s-era Merrimack Street Urban Renewal Project. Developers vying to transform up to 4.5 acres of prime downtown land are Dakota Partners of Waltham, Jefferson Apartment Group of Newton and Planning Office for Urban Affairs of Boston, Lupoli Companies of Lawrence, Panifex of Boston with local liaison Francis J. Bevilacqua III and Trinity Financial of Boston. (See previous WHAV story.)

Most proposals include first floor commercial space and reconstruction of a north-south street that was eliminated during urban renewal. Each developer proposes to replace the existing parking deck with a new parking structure with between 414 and 570 parking spaces. Accessories include options for public parks, plazas, gardens, art exhibition areas and similar outdoor features.

Haverhill City Hall was demolished during urban renewal. (File photograph.)

Before the construction of the Goecke garage, the parcels were home to a thriving retail and housing district and the city’s original brick City Hall that were demolished.

Haverhill Economic Development Director William Pillsbury Jr. said the MassWorks grant essentially represents the state’s endorsements of the city’s efforts. “They asked the city to provide the vision for the next phase of transformation in the Merrimack Street end of downtown, which we did, and this grant acknowledges the state’s belief in our vision and their willingness to partner with us to achieve it,” he said.

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