Economic Development Bill Bolsters Haverhill Downtown and Airport Projects, Methuen Youth Center

State Sen. Diana DiZoglio and Rep. Andy X. Vargas.

A $3.8 billion state economic development bill, sidelined last summer when officials grappled with returning surplus money to taxpayers, won approval last week with earmarks for Haverhill redevelopment projects downtown and at the abandoned Dutton Airport and supporting a Methuen Youth and Community Center as well as other wish list items.

The bill delivers on promises by Rep. Andy X. Vargas, to cover public costs surrounding Lupoli Companies’ downtown redevelopment project and Haverhill’s Dutton Airport Redevelopment, and Sen. Diana DiZoglio, to pay $5 million for the Methuen youth center and downtown projects in Methuen and North Andover as well as other regional projects.

“Our cities and towns need every possible resource as they embark on greatly needed projects,” said DiZoglio. “That is why I am so grateful we were able to secure these funds, with unanimous support, toward important projects in our communities that are designed to bolster the local economy and overall quality of living.”

Haverhill plans to create a new business park at the former airport off Route 110 and support a Merrimack Street development project, establishing new residential, commercial and retail space; a parking garage; and other public amenities.

“This is the largest one-time investment in Haverhill’s downtown issued during my tenure,” said Vargas. “This funding will aid a transformational project for our downtown, creating sorely needed housing and opportunities for jobs and businesses. This is coupled with funding to aid our downtown’s economic recovery, and funding to develop a vacant and unkept airfield. Haverhill’s best days are still ahead.”

Haverhill Mayor James J. Fiorentini, in his own release Friday, said amounts include $950,000 to plan the new industrial and commercial park at the Dutton Airport and $300,000 for Haverhill small businesses.

Fiorentini said, “These projects are vital to Haverhill’s future and continued success, and we are grateful for the leadership and support of our Legislative delegation as well as Gov. (Charlie) Baker and Lt. Gov. (Karyn) Polito who helped champion these critically important funds.”

Methuen’s planned Youth and Community Center receives help paying for construction, staffing and programming. DiZoglio made establishment of a formal center one of her top priorities, leading her to participate in a 159-mile March Across Massachusetts in fall 2020 to raise awareness and support for the project. DiZoglio has noted Methuen is among the few communities in the Merrimack Valley that does not have such a center.

“While we still have a ways to go, this crucial investment will bring us one step closer to making the dream of a Methuen Youth and Community Center a reality,” she said. “Together, we will have the opportunity to provide our youth with mentorship opportunities and social and emotional learning to inspire them to pursue their talents and reach their goals.”

The bill also pays for Methuen greenspace for community events and increased parking at Greycourt Park and a study of the feasibility of building of a new MBTA commuter rail station in the North Andover.

State Rep. Linda Dean Campbell, who secured $500,000 to improve access to Greycourt State Park, said the legislation will have an important economic impact on Methuen, Haverhill and the Merrimack Valley, “attracting new development that will make our communities more vibrant places to live, work and visit.”

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