Mayor: 'Incredible new investments' fueling city  

Haverhill Mayor James Fiorentini

HAVERHILL — The city is again on the cusp of a renaissance — so says Mayor James Fiorentini, who will relay that message during Monday's inauguration ceremony.

Fiorentini will take the oath of office for a ninth two-year term — a record among Haverhill mayors. As is tradition, he will deliver the mayoral address from the City Hall auditorium just after 10 a.m. in a ceremony open to the public.

“We are on the threshold of a new roaring 20s,” Fiorentini said in an excerpt from his speech, a version of which was released by the mayor's office before the inauguration.

“Once again our downtown is booming with dozens of stylish restaurants, and we are seeing incredible new investments like Haverhill Heights, Harbor Place and maybe a Stuart Weitzman museum and cultural center.”

Haverhill Heights is the newest addition to the resurrected downtown — a 10-story project being built at the edge of the Merrimack River by developer Sal Lupoli, owner of the Sal's Pizza empire. The project will include residential units on upper floors and commercial space on the ground floor. The Northern Essex Community College culinary arts program will also be part of the complex.

Harbor Place opened three years ago at the eastern gateway to downtown. It replaced the old Woolworth building, which sat vacant for decades at that key location. Harbor Place contains a UMass Lowell satellite campus, businesses and dozens of residential units overlooking the river, as well as a public boardwalk along the waterway.

The Stuart Weitzman museum referred to by Fiorentini involves a complex proposed by a development group led by Weitzman, who is a well-known shoe designer. The group has proposed an $86 million performing arts center and shoe museum where a public bus terminal and parking lot are currently located in the center of downtown. The group is in talks with city leaders about the proposal.

Downtown Haverhill's previous renaissance began about a decade ago when developers began converting old vacant shoe factories to hundreds of apartments and condominiums. That growth, combined with new restaurants, lounges and other businesses, brought a new vitality to downtown.

Fiorentini's inauguration speech will largely center on Haverhill's Master Plan, being updated this year for the first time since 1995. The plan will control development in the city for the next decade and beyond.

Fiorentini will introduce a zoning concept that supports clustered “village centers” to make Haverhill more pedestrian friendly, his office said. Ward city councilors, an idea Fiorentini first supported last summer, will also be discussed. That concept would have councilors elected from wards, or sections of the city. Voters now elect Haverhill's nine councilors at large.

During Monday's ceremony, Congresswoman Lori Trahan is expected to deliver the oath of office to Fiorentini, with U.S. Sen. Edward Markey in attendance.

After the mayor is sworn in, Haverhill's nine city councilors — all incumbents elected to two-year terms — and three School Committee members will take the oath of office. This year, newcomer Toni Sapienza-Donais, a longtime Haverhill teacher and principal elected to the School Committee in November, joins incumbents Scott Wood and Gail Sullivan to serve four-year terms.

After the swearing-in ceremonies, the City Council will elect its president and vice president.

Councilors typically, but not always, name the highest vote-getter from the previous election as their president. Councilor Joseph Bevilacqua received 6,068 votes in the November election, tops among council candidates, but several councilors have said they might not support him for president.

Some councilors have said they will support Melinda Barrett for the presidency. Barrett placed third in the November election, receiving 5,403 votes. Outgoing Council President John Michitson, who received 5,539 votes and was in second place, has said he wants to pass the torch to someone else this year.

The School Committee will choose its leaders during the first meeting of the new year on Thursday.

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