Haverhill Chamber members get an overview of town center plans and get answers to common questions

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Plans for the $160 million redevelopment of key plots in downtown Haverhill have evolved since they were first proposed last year and could expand further east and south.

Members of the Greater Haverhill Chamber of Commerce received an exclusive preview of the four-acre project late last month with the opportunity to have their questions answered. Former House Speaker Dougan Sherwood, who now champions the Lupoli project, said the changes better meet Haverhill’s needs.

“We wanted it to be more practical. We wanted to be more pedestrian. We wanted there to be more open space. We wanted to have more green spaces. We wanted it to be more programmable. We wanted to organize events. We wanted a chance to keep the farmers market downtown,” he explained at the start.

More changes could be on the way, Sherwood said. He explained that Lupoli was looking at both the existing Pentucket Bank property at White’s Corner as well as vacant land across the street that had previously been proposed as the second phase of Harbor Place. Sherwood noted that the developer is “in talks (with the bank) to also acquire this land” and also, looking at the waterfront plot, and asking “how do we incorporate this?”

Lupoli property development consultant Shaw Rosen said existing plans call for 370 rental apartments, but that number could rise to 420 if a deal is reached to buy the surrounding land. She said retail space could also reach 50,000 square feet if the bank’s property is absorbed.

Rosen said the proposal calls for 640 parking spaces, but since the spaces are shared between tenants and retailers on different schedules, that should be enough.

“People who live in the residential units will get up in the morning and go to work and they will leave their parking spaces all day and it is now becoming available for people who work downtown or who come to downtown to do their shopping, etc.”, she said. noted.

Sherwood called the main plot, including the current Herbert H. Goecke Jr. Memorial Parking Deck, “ugly” and an “inefficient use of space”. Rosen, responding to a question about parking during construction, said the replacement garage will be built first and a parking plan will be developed before work begins.

Sherwood said the combination of residence halls, dining spaces, green spaces and holding the farmers’ market equates to “almost a campus environment.” Other considerations include working with the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Haverhill which he said wants to move out of its existing Emerson Street building but still stays downtown.

Responding to a question from L’Arche Boston North executive director Jennifer Matthews, Sherwood said the retail space will appeal to small businesses rather than chains, but pricing will be “market driven.”

“What I want to make clear is that I don’t think Haverhill will become the town center of Newburyport. I don’t think it’s useful for Haverhill to become Lynnfield Commons where we have a Gap and a Banana Republic. That’s not what Haverhill is and I don’t think that’s what Haverhill would attract,” he said.

Speakers noted, however, that the communal kitchen planned to serve the food court, by its very design, saves costs.

Jered Stewart of Bethany Community Services was told that one-way traffic could benefit downtown, but is not currently being discussed.

Sherwood said the apartments are not expected to significantly increase the population of public schools, but instead are aimed at “young professionals”, with 77% being one-bedroom units. The plans call for market-rate rents, but will take into account any future city regulations regarding affordable housing and take into account Rep. Andy X. Vargas’ suggestion that some units be sold as affordable condominiums.

The discussion also noted upcoming changes to developer Salvatore N. Lupoli’s existing Heights project down the street. The long-awaited Bosa restaurant and 10and the ground bar is currently under construction, but has been delayed not only due to the pandemic, but also difficulty obtaining restaurant equipment. Rosen pointed out that more welcoming “light fixtures, seating and lighting” would arrive on the heights.

Rosen said there are no plans for a building owned by Lupoli at 133 Merrimack St which is currently used as a construction office. She said it could become a parking lot for the Heights.

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