Despite concerns over a lack of off-street parking, the Haverhill City Council gave the okay Tuesday night to a request by Methuen developer Manuel Matias to expand an existing 12-unit apartment building at 71 Portland Street into 16 units of housing.
Attorney Robert D. Harb, representing Matias Capital, told councilors despite the addition of four new efficiency apartments to the building, the outside of the structure will not change.
“The fourth floor is actually a mansard roof. What we’re actually asking you to do is allow him to put four efficiency apartments on the top floor,” he said.
Currently, the fourth floor is used only for storage. Harb added his client plans to invest an additional $600,000 to upgrade the look of the entire building. Overall, councilors, such as Thomas J. Sullivan, were in favor of the program.
“Here is the perfect example of something that we have that’s been sitting idle and blighted for a long time and it has an opportunity to be returned to beautiful and you’re going to provide much needed housing,” he said.
In addition to, council expressed approval when they heard the units would be rented for well below the average cost of most apartments in downtown Haverhill, with one-bedrooms going for $1,400 to $1,600 per month and studio apartments slightly lower than that.
The concern, however, was the number of off-street parking spaces. Matias said while there was only parking for 13 vehicles, the property is within walking distance of more than one public transportation stop. Of the six units now occupied in the building, only four of them have a private vehicle.
Councilors generally agreed the positives of the project outweighed the parking issue and, after Councilor Melinda E. Barrett added a stipulation that those 13 spaces needed to be available even during the winter months, they voted 8-1 to approve the project with Councilor Michael S. McGonagle as the lone dissenting vote.