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GA Blog: Haverhill

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5.17.19 Rep. Vargas Testifies in Favor of Zoning Reform

State Rep. Andy Vargas testified before the Joint Committee on Housing this week in favor of reforms which would allow local governments to revise zoning laws through a simple majority vote.

Vargas told the committee that the current Massachusetts law, unusual among most other US states in that it requires a supermajority to revise zoning legislation, makes it easy for affordable housing developments to be stifled because of zoning issues.

Vargas testified that currently a minimum wage worker in the Merrimack Valley must work around 84 hours a week in order to afford a market rate one bedroom apartment. He said that with housing inequality so rampant, adding more affordable options to the market is a necessity.

This week, Vargas and Housing Committee Chairman Rep. Kevin Honan filed a bill setting a housing production goal of 427,000 new units by 2040, with a focus on transit oriented development. This comes at the heel of Governor Baker’s unveiling of the new “Housing Choice Community” designation, given to cities including Haverhill which commit to boostin housing production.

Read more about Rep. Vargas’ testimony at 97.9 WHAV.

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5.9.19 Haverhill to Use $800,000 Grant to Help Homeowners in Low-Income Neighborhoods

The City of Haverhill announced Tuesday night that it will spend $800,000 of federal Community Development Block Grant money for “neighborhood stabilization.” The City’s plans include helping to rehabilitate owner-occupied homes, enforcing building codes, undertaking demolition where necessary, helping first-time home buyers and improving streets and sidewalks.

As an “entitlement community,” Haverhill receives money from the federal government to put towards improvements to the city. Most of the money will be targeted towards low-income communities, including the Mount Washington and Acre neighborhoods. Other projects include the construction of a public coworking space in the Mount Washington neighborhood. 

City councillors were critical of the lack of an increase in funding this year, given the growth of the national budget. Council Vice President Thomas J. Sullivan called the amounts “embarrassing” and a “disgrace.” 

Read more about neighborhood stabilization in Haverhill at WHAV.

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12.5.16 Haverhill Real Estate Company Fined $70,000 in Housing Discrimination Case

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey

The WHAV 97.9 website reports that Haverhill real estate company, Andover Portland Avenue Associates, LLC, was fined $70,000 resulting from a housing discrimination involving two tenants with disabilities.

In 2014, the Massachusetts Architectural Access Board found the 96-unit Casco Crossing apartment complex in Andover, MA did not comply with building code accessibility requirements.  Andover Portland owned and operated the apartment complex until May 2015 and will be forced to pay two tenants of Casco Crossing apartment complex $20,000 each and pay $15,000 to the state to resolve allegations the company violated state anti-discrimination and consumer protection laws, according to Attorney General Maura Healey.

The complaint alleged the following:

  1. Andover Portland failed to design and construct the apartment complex to meet accessibility standards required by law
  2. One tenant requested several accommodations, including a wheelchair ramp to access the building, grab bars in the bathroom, a handicap-accessible toilet and parking, among other things. Andover Portland allegedly failed, in each instance, to “engage in an interactive dialogue and unreasonably refused to provide the modifications or accommodations.”
  3. Andover Portland also allegedly ignored and failed to address requests from the mother of another tenant with several disabilities for “reasonable” modifications, including an automatic building door opener for wheelchair access and “prompt removal of ice from the sidewalks in the winter.”

The tenants claimed they suffered emotional distress, were unable to access common areas and parts of their apartments, and incurred certain additional expenses.

According to Attorney General Healey: “People with disabilities regularly face barriers to housing choice and opportunity. This settlement demonstrates our continued commitment to enforcing our fair housing laws to ensure that property owners and managers work with tenants with disabilities.”

Read the entire WHAV 97.9 website report.

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3.29.16 State Funds Assisting in Local Infrastructure Projects

Lower Millyard in Amesbury, MA

The Newburyport Daily News reports that Gov. Charlie Baker, who took office a year ago, wants to expand the popular MassWorks program as part of a five-year, $1 billion plan to rejuvenate communities still struggling to take advantage of the Commonwealth’s recent economic upswing.

Massworks is a program under the Massachusetts Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development designed to help cities and towns upgrade their infrastructure. Governor Baker’s plan calls for borrowing $500 million over five years to boost funding for MassWorks by nearly 35%.  To date, MassWorks has parceled out more than $330 million in grants.

North of Boston communities - including Newburyport, Salisbury, Amesbury, Salem, Lawrence, Haverhill, Peabody, and Beverly - have received more than $42 million since the MassWorks program got underway. These projects include:

  1. Amesbury - a 1.6-acre site in the Lower Millyard quarter is now Heritage Park, where a private developer continues work on a multi-story complex of housing, office and retail space [pictured above].
  2. Haverhill - along the Merrimack River in Haverhill, a once-tired cityscape has been revitalized with a new boardwalk and parks, spurring private investment in a new complex of offices, storefronts and housing.
  3. Peabody - leaders plan to reconfigure traffic-choked Peabody Square by moving a Civil War monument and adding street lights, trees and crosswalks, in hopes of luring investment downtown. Peabody Mayor Ted Bettencourt said the money has been vital to the city’s downtown. “It’s helped make the downtown safer for pedestrians and more attractive,” he said. “And it’s paid off for us with significant properties being purchased by new developers who have exciting plans for the downtown.”

No match needed:  Andrew Herlihy, director of the Haverhill’s community development department, said an aspect of MassWorks that makes it so attractive is there are no requirements for communities to match the investment.  In addition to boosting MassWorks funding, Baker’s economic development proposal asks for $50 million for a separate MassDevelopment program that makes longterm equity investments in properties in “gateway cities” such as Lawrence, Methuen, Salem and Haverhill.

Previous local MassWorks grants:

  • Amesbury 2015:  enhancements to the Intersection of Route 110 and Route 150, $1,107,812, including signal upgrades, intersection modifications, and the construction of new sidewalks to Amesbury’s downtown. The improvements will allow the construction of Amesbury Heights, a 240-unit housing development, to begin in the spring.
  • Newburyport 2015: increased sewer capacity and sidewalk extension, $2,000,000, allowing Newburyport to leverage $4.45 million committed by the city to increase sewer capacity and extend sidewalks in the recently adopted 40R Smart Growth district. The infrastructure improvements will support a $16.5 million 80-unit mixed-use development located next to the MBTA commuter rail station and enable the future construction of 440 units in the 40R District.
  • Salisbury 2014: Salisbury Square Water System Improvement, $1,708,769, to upgrade the water distribution system in the town center. The replacement of existing water mains and the addition of new mains will enable the Spalding School site and 29 Elm St. to be developed into 42 housing units. The MassWorks award leverages $9 million in private investments for this project and creates opportunities for additional redevelopment in the area. 
  • Amesbury 2013: Lower Millyard Water Street Improvement Project - Amesbury’s Lower Millyard has been the focus of a significant economic development and mill revitalization effort in the downtown. The MassWorks award allowed for the realignment and addition of streetscape improvements to Water Street providing for increased pedestrian and traffic safety. The city voted to invest $5.9M in the relocation of the DPW yard, $1.5M for the construction of Heritage Park and Merrimack Valley RTA has invested $7M in its Transportation Center. The city estimated 289 housing units could be created in the Lower Millyard area.
  • Amesbury 2011:  In 2011, EOHED awarded a $1,250,000 grant through the MassWorks Infrastructure Program to reconstruct roadway infrastructure to support the development in the Lower Millyard section of the City of Amesbury. As the sole access to the Lower Millyard, Elm Street has numerous safety issues affecting the development of the area including roadway deterioration, lack of defined sidewalks, 90-degree turns, missing curbing, poor drainage, and increased traffic at severely restricted intersections. The improvements are critical to the Lower Millyard revitalization and will allow for the expansion of existing industries and the construction of new rehabilitated facilities.

Read the entire Newburyport Daily News article.

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3.14.14 Economic Stimulus for Gateway Cities – Salem, Peabody, Haverhill, Lawrence

The Salem News reports that Governor Deval Patrick has proposed a multi-year, $100 million economic plan that focuses attention on the state’s economically challenged “Gateway” cities, which would fund large-scale redevelopment projects, market-rate housing and help clean up old manufacturing sites.

Cities like Salem, Peabody, Haverhill and Lawrence would benefit from the stimulus, which would create a new $11 million fund for major redevelopment projects specifically in the Gateway cities, to be overseen by MassDevelopment, the state’s finance and development agency.  MassINC has called for a state infusion of more than $1.7 billion over the next decade to stimulate growth in the state’s 26 Gateway cities.  A recent study by the group suggested the funding would create $3.4 billion in new development and create about 80,000 jobs.

Funding would also be set aside in the bill for the state’s Brownfields Redevelopment Fund, which cities like Lawrence and Salem have used to redevelop old industrial and manufacturing sites that have become polluted.

Read the entire Salem News article.

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2.18.14 Long-vacant Woolworth Property in Haverhill to Become Riverfront Campus/Business/Shops

 Harbor Place in Haverhill, MA

The Eagle-Tribune (joyfully) reported that the Woolworth building in Haverhill – vacant for more than 40 years – will now have a dramatic renaissance.  It will become home to a satellite campus for UMass Lowell and a home for businesses such as restaurants and stores overlooking the Merrimack River.

Demolition of the dilapidated Woolworth building is scheduled for late spring and will herald the start of major redevelopment of the eastern gateway to downtown, located on the corner of Merrimack Street and Main Street (Route 125).

The Woolworth building is being replaced by several mixed-use buildings along the river, the first of which will be a seven-story development called Harbor Place, will be a satellite campus for UMass Lowell.  The college plans to occupy the second and third floors of the new, glass-enclosed building, UMass Lowell Chancellor Martin Meehan said.

Restaurants and retails shops will occupy the first floor of Harbor Place and there will be office space on upper floors, said Lisa Alberghini, president of the Planning Office for Urban Affairs.  Alberghini said construction of the $18 million building is expected to begin in the fall and take 18 to 24 months. The job is expected to generate about 150 construction jobs, according to a press release about the project.

The entire sweeping Merrimack Street Ventures development is likely to top $80 million, officials said. Later phases include the demolition of several more large buildings on Merrimack Street which will be replaced by mixed-use projects with ground floor retail and hundreds of condominiums and apartments on upper floors.  Other buildings to be demolished starting in the spring include the Ocasio and Newman’s Furniture buildings, as well as several more buildings heading west, city officials said.

The first phase of the project includes a pedestrian corridor to a new Merrimack River boardwalk and public plaza. The corridor and plaza are to be built on a raised platform that will allow direct access to the river while also providing underground parking. There are also plans for a public boat dock with access to the river, according to the plan.

Woolworth building in Haverhill, MA

The yellow, art deco-style Woolworth building (above) opened in 1949 and has been vacant since the former department store closed in 1969.  The redevelopment of the property will reveal views of the water that have been blocked for decades by the massive concrete flood wall that protects downtown from the river in the event of a catastrophic flood.

Read the entire Eagle-Tribune article.

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