Council Approves 113 Apartments for Vacant Downtown Haverhill Waterfront Parcel

John F. McCarthy of Minco Development first outlined the housing plan in 2021. (WHAV News photograph.)

A long vacant parcel along the Merrimack River in downtown Haverhill will give way to 113 apartments and an improved public park following a vote of the Haverhill City Council last night.

Members approved a request by 85 Water St. Redevelopment, associated with Minco Development Corp of North Andover, to construct a multi-family apartment building and enlarge the River Rest Park adjacent to it. Eric B. Loth, vice president of acquisitions for the developer, told councilors that although the number of units to be built exceeds zoning density limits, it will still have the same number of total bedrooms as an earlier proposal approved for the site. There will be 49 studio apartments, 50 one-bedroom units and only 14 two-bedroom apartments.

“Roughly the same size as the project from 2015. We took the space of the 59 units which was 127 bedrooms and we designed what we thought made a lot more sense, trying to make the units more affordable,” he said.

The developer petitioned the council in 2021 seeking a special permit to build 113 units on the site, which is located in the Waterfront Zoning District which typically allows for a maximum of only 83 units. At the time, councilors expressed a number of concerns leading the developer to withdraw the request without prejudice.

Loth added with most of the units being one-bedroom or fewer, there will likely be only a minimal impact on public schools. He added the builder is willing to offer three of the units as affordable housing and four other units as workforce housing, meaning rent for those units would not exceed 120% of the area’s median income.

The developer also agreed to expand the existing River Rest Park as part of the project.

“We’re going to use 30,000 square feet out of the 50,000 square foot of the lot. The other 20,000 square feet is going to be added to the park. The city will still own it. We’ll maintain it,” he said.

The property was the site of the former Friends Landing nightclub that was torn down 16 years ago, leaving an overgrown lot that Mayor James J. Fiorentini referred to as a blight on the area. “The result you have before you tonight is a beautiful, million dollar waterfront park to serve as the entranceway to our downtown. This is exactly what we need,” he said.

While all councilors expressed support for the concept, some spoke of concerns over how it would affect traffic and infrastructure in general. At times, the discussion became like the game show “Let’s Make A Deal” with councilors asking how many units the developer would be willing to cut.

Ultimately, a consensus was reached when Loth agreed to make an additional four units available as workforce housing and, at the request of Councilor Thomas J. Sullivan, to include a dog park.

The developer also agreed to a request by Haverhill Firefighters Local 1011 President Timothy Carroll to set aside 1,000 square feet of the park area adjacent to the firehouse for a memorial to Haverhill’s fallen firefighters.

Councilors approved the project by a vote of 6-3 with Vice President John A. Michitson and Councilors Joseph J. Bevilacqua, Michael S. McGonagle, Catherine P. Rogers, Shaun P. Toohey and Sullivan voting in favor while President Timothy J. Jordan and Councilors Melinda E. Barrett and Melissa J. Lewandowski dissented.

Site plan for proposed 113-unit residential building at 85 Water St., Haverhill.

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