Downtown Haverhill Businesses Ready for Major Demolition, Parking Changes Starting Next Month

Economic Development and Planning Director William Pillsbury Jr. displays a map of expanded parking. (WHAV News photograph.)

(Additional photograph below.)

Haverhill business owners expressed both nervous excitement and heart-pounding concern over parking as demolition of an existing downtown parking garage begins near the middle of next month.

Economic Development and Planning Director William Pillsbury Jr. last week showed the business community how the city will replace lost parking spaces with a “fairly aggressive, interim parking plan,” while still trying to secure more than what already exists. He reminded everyone to keep their eyes on the prize—a new $160 million redevelopment of the central business district with a new, more than 600-space parking garage. He went to great lengths to answer one question before it was even asked.

“First thing I want to share with people is we will never entirely shut down Merrimack Street. It won’t happen. It didn’t happen during Harbor Place—the Fire Department and the Police Department need access through there,” he said.

Haverhill Mayor Melinda E. Barrett fielded questions and gave out her mobile telephone number to business leaders. (WHAV News photograph.)

Mayor Melinda E. Barrett reminded participants she was also a Merrimack Street business owner and quite sensitive to construction upheaval on the street.

“I lived through at least two different construction periods with my business. It is difficult. I’m not going to sugarcoat that. There’s going to be issues and we’re going to try to resolve issues where we can,” she explained.

Part of addressing problems in “real-time,” as Pillsbury explained, means the city will hire a designated project manager and clerk of the works to answer questions and concerns throughout the project, use WHAV radio to air updates, provide a designated website of timelines and offer a specific telephone hotline. In fact, Barrett gave out her mobile telephone number.

Once demolition begins, there will be 387 parking spaces, growing to 505 when construction commences. Pillsbury explained demolition begins on the westerly side—the oldest part—of the Herbert H. Goecke Jr. Memorial Parking Deck. That will make available 130 spaces tentatively by September.

The parking totals include a net additional 84 spaces for a total of 147, 10-hour, angle spaces on Bailey Boulevard; additional 52 spaces for a total of 82 at the Haverhill Place lot alongside Pentucket Medical; and 43 new spaces on the empty lot next to Harbor Place for two-hour use. Besides existing available spaces off How Street and behind 200 Merrimack Street, the city expects 38 spaces along Merrimack Street and 19 along Park Way after restriping.

Pillsbury emphasized new spaces are not for overnight use which would tie them up. Enforcement will be done like in “the old days,” he explained, with chalking the tires and timing. “It’s not about tickets, it’s about keeping people moving.”

“We want to create a situation where the parking that is available is going to turn over so that you, as businesses down here, can have your customers and your clients and your patients and everybody else have an opportunity to get to your building,” he said.

He further noted the city continues to explore additional parking spaces nearby on Water Street and right in the center of downtown. Pillsbury conceded he sees more cars early in the morning and worries overnight parking could be a “wild card.”

“We’re pursuing a couple of additional locations for parking that we haven’t got confirmation on yet. One is the TD Bank lot on West Street that has about 50 spaces. We’re looking to try to procure that—just access to that. We don’t want to own it. We just want to have access to park there for people during the day.”

David and Karen Currier, owners of Mr. K’s Auto School, 101 Merrimack St., expressed the most concern about the plan. He said his driving school keeps three dedicated cars overnight in the How Street lot, but fears spaces will end up tied up when instructors return from lessons. Karen was even more explicit, saying she worries “We’ll have to move.”

Others worried the new 600-car garage will be filled by new residents, but Pillsbury noted similar concerns in the nearby Washington Street Historic District have not materialized with the garage there never more than 50% full. He added some residents will also have parking under their apartment building. While public pricing isn’t ready, Pillsbury said developer Salvatore N. Lupoli agreed to develop those in conjunction with the city.

Construction of apartments and commercial space will not begin until the new parking garage, consolidated on one corner of the site, is open. Construction of a precast, concrete structure begins this summer with completion by the summer of 2025.

Pillsbury warned there will be plenty of construction trucks, but they will not be allowed to use the busy White’s Corner at Merrimack and Main Streets.

David and Karen Currier, owners of Mr. K’s Auto School, express concern during the meeting across the street from the soon-to-be-demolished Herbert H. Goecke Jr. Memorial Parking Deck. (WHAV News photograph.)

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