As expected, the Haverhill City Council gave its approval Tuesday night to an order declaring the city-owned, third floor of the Haverhill Public Library as surplus, allowing Mayor James J. Fiorentini to sell the unit to the library’s board of trustees for $1.
Library trustees plan to spend $10 million to modernize, renovate and expand the library building, including the nearly 9,000 square foot, non-residential third-floor condominium.
The library, which opened in 1875, was established through a donation by wealthy Haverhill industrialist Ezekiel James Madison Hale. His donation gave ownership of the property to a board of trustees—not the city—and called for Haverhill to maintain it and pay the staff.
The original Summer Street building remained in place until 1969 when a new building on Main Street replaced it. The then-trustees argued successfully in 1965 to expand the Pentucket Urban Renewal Project by 4.6 acres—up to Summer Street. The federal government authorized up to $1 million to pay for the taking of additional property and pay premiums for the library’s relocation expenses, help to pay for the new and larger building.
In 1997, the trustees initiated another project to expand the library from 30,500 to 40,000 square feet. Falling short in raising the money for the project, the trustees agreed to sell the top floor of the building to the city for $1.2 million. That amount was paid in full in 2018.
While councilors supported the plan to return ownership of the property to the library board, Councilor Thomas J. Sullivan expressed concern regarding the need for renovation of the library’s parking area.
“We want to partner, if we can convince the mayor to do so, to make a significant investment in the parking lot, so that the parking lot will look as nice as your building will, inside and out, when you’re done with your $10 million renovation,” he said.
Sullivan said the current lot is in need of repaving and needs to be made handicap accessible.
The Council approved the order by a vote of 8-0 with councilor Shaun Toohey absent.