Chapter 40R District Makes Haverhill the Leader in Transit Oriented Development
By: James J. Fiorentini, Mayor City of Haverhill
Recently, the Mayor and the City Council worked together to rezone a portion of its downtown. Under the rezoning proposal submitted to the state, developers will be allowed to redevelop the upper floors of vacant shoe factory buildings as residences and the first floor will be retail and commercial . The redevelopment would be allowed as a matter of right provided the developer meets strict design standards designed to preserve the historic look and feel of the area.
Currently, we have twenty three (23) vacant floors on Washington and Wingate Streets, and numerous largely vacant buildings on Locust Street, Locke Street and Essex Streets. Some of these buildings have been vacant for as long as sixty years.
We have made redeveloping our old factory buildings a key goal in revitalizing our city. Our first ever brownfields grant has allowed us to assess several areas for possible pollution, and removes a key barrier to redeveloping buildings. The rezoning, which is called a Chapter 40R Smart Growth Overlay District adds a critical tool in our efforts to revitalize this area.
In a Chapter 40R district, no special permission is required to put residences in the upper floors of factory buildings. Two months is cut off the permit time a key ingredient. For investors in downtown buildings, time is money. Investors in buildings with a view towards the river are encouraged to orient their buildings toward the waterfront, and encouraged to preserve a view corridor so that the river, our greatest asset, can be seen by all. Parking is required-- but developers are encouraged to contribute towards a new parking garage the city hopes to build in the downtown area. The State offers a bonus of $600,000 to rezone its downtown towards a 40R district, and Haverhill stands to be one of the first cities in line for the bonus.
Today, Haverhill is beginning to succeed in redeveloping its factory buildings. The Beacon project, one of the largest developers in Massachusetts, is developing the old Cabot Furniture building into 163 units in upscale downtown living. The first ever artists lofts are now for sale in downtown Haverhill. The Franchi building on Washington Street offers riverfront views. Forest City investors, the largest residential developers in the entire country have filed preliminary plans to redevelop the old Hamel Leather Building into upscale housing with restaurants and shops on the first floor. No one can say for certain if these plans will succeed but we can certainly say this: We have made more progress over the last two years in redeveloping old factory buildings than has been made in the past several decades.
The Chapter 40R Zoning Overlay District is another crucial tool in our toolbox to revitalize Haverhill. Under the 40R application we filed with the State, Haverhill is the leader in redeveloping old factory buildings which are near train stations to allow the upper floors of those buildings to be used as housing.