EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Haverhill

January 24, 2008

Biggest store in city's history to open; Lowe's adds to trend of development along highway

HAVERHILL - Explosions rattled homes like earthquakes. A major throughway to New Hampshire was closed to commuters. Construction vehicles and crews added to traffic at the Interstate 495 exit.



Those growing pains have subsided, and the end result is the largest retail store in the city's history - Lowe's Home Improvement.



The store will open Saturday at 25 Computer Drive off Route 97 after three years of planning and construction - including the blasting of ledge and rerouting of neighborhood traffic. A Target was built next to Lowe's as part of the same project and opened late last year.



"It's exciting," said William Pillsbury, the city's economic development and planning director. "It's great to see the other major store up there coming to a point of opening."



The Lowe's and Target stores were built on a 44-acre site called Haverhill Commons between Route 97 and North Broadway. The two retail giants join BJ's Wholesale Club in Bradford as the three big so-called "box stores" opening in Haverhill along the Interstate 495 corridor in the past six months.



They are part of economic growth that will continue in the area. Across the street from Haverhill Commons, a developer plans to spend about $18 million building a mall called Northgate Retail Plaza with five restaurants and four retail stores.



Haverhill changed its zoning laws in 2005 to allow for such retail development in that area along the highway.



The 100,000-square-foot Lowe's will generate about $150,000 in annual property taxes, city officials have said. It will also create more than 100 retail jobs, they said.



The Lowe's and Target projects caused some problems for residents.



Contractors had to blast away rock to carve foundations for the stores, shaking nearby homes. Some residents said the explosions caused cracks in their foundations.



Late last year, the construction caused the closure of Route 97 so road improvements could be made at the Computer Drive intersection. Route 97 is a major road to Salem, N.H.



Other neighbors note the increase in noise from Target and Lowe's snow-moving equipment, and the added traffic from customers.



The Target was built close to Christopher Shea's home at 8 Mariah Ridge Road. He is glad the construction is over, though it was not as bad as he thought it would be.



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