EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


July 5, 2014

Tax breaks eyed to speed up downtown project

Would ease efforts to replace Woolworth building

HAVERHILL — With demolition of the old Woolworth building to begin this summer, Mayor James Fiorentini wants to smooth the path toward replacing it with a mixed-use waterfront complex and boardwalk.

The City Council has approved Fiorentini’s request to negotiate a deal that would provide the developer of the planned Harbor Place complex with a tax break designed to encourage housing in downtown areas, which the mayor said will help move the project forward. Besides the Woolworth building, the deal would affect several adjoining buildings that will also be demolished.

The mayor is also looking to forge agreements to provide parking spaces for the project and provide businesses at Harbor Place the ability to connect to a new boardwalk that is planned.

The tax break, known as an Urban Center Housing TIF (Tax Increment financing), was created by the state to encourage developers to build market-rate housing in urban areas where the cost of construction is high, the mayor said.

Under the proposal, for a limited time the developer would be exempt from some taxes that would normally come with improvements to the site, but the city would never receive less real estate taxes than it currently receives.

In announcing the Harbor Place project, state Rep. Brian Dempsey said the partnership to redevelop the long vacant Woolworth building will prove to be the most significant economic development project in Haverhill. The project is a partnership between the Greater Haverhill Foundation and the Planning Office for Urban Affairs of the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston.

A UMass Lowell satellite campus will be the prime tenant of the seven-story Harbor Place. The college plans to occupy the second and third floors of the new, glass-enclosed building. Restaurants and retails shops will occupy the first floor of Harbor Place and there will be office space on upper floors.

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