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February 27, 2013

Mayor announces new development, business at annual speech

Says crime is down, schools up

HAVERHILL — Mayor James Fiorentini announced a major economic development project and the opening of a new restaurant and lounge in a downtown landmark at the annual State of the City speech last night.

The mayor, half-way through a record fifth term as Haverhill’s chief executive, focused his address on past and future efforts to revitalize downtown and other parts of the city by easing building regulation and changing zoning rules to encourage large residential and commercial development.

Overall, he painted a rosy picture of Haverhill’s present and future. Crime, he said, is down; the city’s school system, on the upswing.

Fiorentini gave the speech to an overflow audience packed into the City Council meeting room in City Hall. Haverhill’s full legislative delegation sat in the front row.

The mayor introduced Charles Defelice and Joan and Jodi Kaskiewics, who plan to open a restaurant and sports pub called Coaches in the old Hotel Whittier on Washington Street. The building, which operated as a hotel until the 1980s, has been home to small eateries, condominiums and retail stores in recent years. The century-old building, with its fancy ironwork and Gothic-style arches on top, is considered one of downtown’s finest examples of Queen Anne architecture.

The mayor said zoning initiatives have been the key to keeping real estate taxes low and improving services to residents. He outlined several new zoning proposals he said he plans to ask City Council to pass in coming months.

Rezoning downtown, which began when Fiorentini first took office nine years ago, has brought $150 million in private and public investment, 850 new residents and many new restaurants to the area, the mayor said, highlighting Butch’s Uptown and The Barking Dog Ale House as two of the latest.

Those projects and new meals tax revenue from downtown restaurants have pumped about $12 million into city coffers in recent years, he said.

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