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Haverhill

April 16, 2014

Mayor to negotiate garage deal with developers

Councilors worry about impact to existing businesses

HAVERHILL — City Council has agreed to give Mayor James Fiorentini control of 100 parking spaces in the Merrimack Street garage that the developers of the large-scale Harbor Place project across the street want for future business and residential tenants.

The proposed mixed-use development centers around the demolition of the long-vacant Woolworth building and several other large downtown buildings between the street and the Merrimack River. The plan is to replace the old buildings with apartments, restaurants, retail shops, offices and a satellite campus for UMass Lowell.

Fiorentini said the Merrimack Street Ventures development team plans to build a garage under the Woolworth property with 150 spaces, but that up to 100 more spaces are needed. Lack of nearby parking is one of the main reasons the Woolworth building has wasted away empty and unused for more than 40 years, city officials have said.

The council approved the mayor’s request last night to declare 100 spaces in the garage surplus, which will allow him to put the spaces up for lease and to negotiate with the Harbor Place developers.

Fiorentini said he is not sure which spaces in the deck he might lease to the developers nor whether they would be on the first or second level of the facility. He also said the developers might end up needing fewer than 100 spaces, while noting that any agreement he make for the spaces would have to go back to the council for final approval.

The mayor said a recent survey by the city showed there are about 100 unused spaces between both floors of the parking deck at any given time, except on snow days, when it sees heavy use by postal trucks, police vehicles, and residents looking for off-street parking.

Nonetheless, several councilors raised concerns about reserving so many spaces in the garage for the Harbor Place project.

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