Old Bank Headquarters Comes Down; Site and Current Bank Could Be Added to Redevelopment Plans

A demolition excavator takes down the former Pentucket Bank Headquarters. More photographs below. (WHAV News photograph.)

The last pre-urban renewal building at White’s Corner in downtown Haverhill is no more.

The on-again, off-again plan to take down the former headquarters of Pentucket Bank on the north side of Merrimack Street was settled Saturday morning. Contractor S&R Corporation of Lowell used a demolition excavator to take down the architecturally significant building.

There are no specific plans for the lot, but the parcel and one next door that houses the bank’s current brick headquarters could be part of larger plans to redevelop about four acres of city land.

“The present bank building is also in the mix to be torn down. It was offered to all four or five proposals and, one group in particular, implemented it into their plan. Whatever proposal that is chosen, that’s in the mix,” a bank official told WHAV.

Haverhill Health and Inspectional Services Director Richard MacDonald told WHAV Saturday the city granted demolition permits about two weeks ago. As is standard procedure, a police detail kept onlookers and automobiles a safe distance away and Haverhill firefighters stood by in case of emergency.

Pentucket Bank first planned taking down the 35 Merrimack St. building in 2014 for parking. In 2016, however, MassDevelopment’s Noah Koretz, then working in the city as a Transformative Development Initiative fellow, approached the bank about saving one of the last mid-century modern style structures in downtown Haverhill.

MassDevelopment proposed buying the building, but the bank offered to lease it instead for $100,000 a year plus the cost of building upgrades. Ultimately, the quasi-public state agency and Pentucket Bank were unable to reach agreement. In 2018, the bank itself listed the property for rent with signs in the windows urging interested tenants to call MEG Asset Management of Londonderry, N.H.

“The board has voted to tear it down a couple times and voted to leave it up a couple of times. Different projects would come along that were interested in it and then, when you do the cost analysis to put in a new boiler, new stairs, up-to-date ADA, it just wasn’t worth it.” said the bank official.

Officials at the demolition site reported the door of the bank’s vault would be saved. The vault played a significant role in the history of Pentucket Bank. Late bank Chairman Kendall C. “Ken” Smith once told WHAV the bank paid $75,000 for the vault in 1958 and intended to place it in a new building next to the post office in Washington Square. The city ultimately took the property by eminent domain for parking. Pentucket Five Cents Savings Bank then decided to spend $400,000 in January, 1960, to purchase 35 Merrimack St.—then home to the Haverhill Foundation and Reinhold Shoe Store. It built a new façade around existing buildings there. (See earlier WHAV story, “Bank Survives Setbacks; Shapes City.”

As early as 2015, City Councilor William J. Macek suggested seeking proposals for redevelopment of the Herbert H. Goecke Memorial Parking Deck, which would include commercial and residential development in front of the deck and a larger parking structure behind. Macek’s idea was supported by studies undertaken by MassDevelopment’s Transformative Development Initiative in downtown Haverhill.

The city ultimately attracted five proposals, which are currently under review. The city is requiring developers to build a new multi-story parking garage, but the city was awarded $750,000 in a state MassWorks grant to pay for its design.

The developers 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.

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