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Haverhill

Haverhill to upgrade Merrimack Street with state funds

Haverhill will be able to upgrade Merrimack Street in its downtown as a result of a $4 million grant recently announced by the state.

The grant was among four awarded for local projects under the state’s MassWorks Infrastructure program,  which funds road and other improvements that can open the way for economic growth.

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The other grants are $500,000 to complete Phase 1 of the project design to improve the Route 128/Brimbal Avenue interchange in Beverly; $1.5 million for infrastructure improvements in Chelsea’s urban renewal district; and $1 million for upgrades along the Middlesex Turnpike in Burlington.

The Haverhill grant and $4 million allotted for a Brockton project were the largest of 26 grants totaling $38 million awarded through the program.

Haverhill had applied for $20 million to cover the cost of improvements it hopes to carry out along Merrimack Street. Although the grant falls well short of that, Mayor James J. Fiorentini said the city is grateful for the help.

“We couldn’t be more thrilled,” he said.

“The other end of the downtown — Washington, Wingate, Essex, and Locust streets — the old shoe shop area, has really come back,” Fiorentini said. “We’ve had $150 million in investment in that area of town. We have 850 residents, a new parking garage, a new boardwalk. Now we want to extend that . . . Haverhill renaissance to Merrimack Street.”

The plan also calls for repairing the flood wall separating Merrimack Street from the Merrimack River, and relocating utilities that run along the flood wall behind buildings, hindering redevelopment. Other work would include extending an existing boardwalk, and fixing a culvert and a water/sewer pump station.

The state has not yet specified how the grant is to be used, but Fiorentini said he expects at least some of it will go toward the flood wall repair. He said the city would borrow to fund the remaining costs of that estimated $6 million project.

A separate $1 million MassWorks grant to the city last year paid for upgrades to the parking deck on Merrimack Street and design work for a planned rail trail.

Beverly’s grant will allow the city to complete the design of the first phase of the Brimbal Avenue interchange upgrade.

Tina Cassidy, Beverly’s director of planning and development, called the project “the most prominent economic development initiative we will have for the next decade.”

Cassidy said two major developments in the 1990s and 2000s — the Cummings Center and the Garden City Business Park (Sam Fonzo Drive) — provided Beverly with a significant revenue boost that helped pay for school building and other projects.

But she said the city still needs money for other projects and the Brimbal Avenue area offers “an extraordinary opportunity” for the growth that would meet that goal.

The project calls for improving and replacing ramps on the south side of Route 128 and creating an overpass from Brimbal Avenue to the industrial end of Dunham Road, providing access for development of the old city landfill. The overpass also would improve access to the other side of Route 128, which Cassidy said would allow for growth there without affecting neighborhood streets.

Phase 1 will include widening part of Brimbal Avenue and building a connector road between Brimbal Avenue and Sohier Road.

The Chelsea grant will help fund the second phase of infrastructure improvements in the Everett Avenue Urban Renewal District. The city is covering $1 million of the total $2.5 million cost of the work, which includes water main replacement, road and sidewalk repairs, and sewer work.

The nearly completed first phase involved a $1.5 million upgrade to the intersection of Everett Avenue and Spruce Street funded through a combination of a MassWorks grant, city funds, and private development, according to city manager Jay Ash.

He said the new project will allow developers to proceed with a planned 230-unit market-rate rental housing development within the urban renewal district, and spur redevelopment of nearby land.

“This project could not have gone forward had it been required to bear the cost of the public infrastructure improvements,” Ash said.

The city had requested a $2 million grant, but Ash said “We were very satisfied with the award. We recognize there were so many grant applications.”

The Burlington grant will help fund roadway improvements to support ongoing redevelopment efforts in Northwest Park, and plans by Keurig, the coffee machine maker, to use a site on South Avenue.

The work will be carried out at the intersections of the Middlesex Turnpike with Second Avenue, South Avenue, and the northbound ramp to Route 128, according to John Sanchez, the town’s superintendent of public works.

“We are excited every time we are able to receive a grant, particularly a grant that promotes economic development in town,” Sanchez said.

Sanchez said the town had applied for $1.6 million in the current round, with a plan to have developers fund the remaining $500,000. He said since the grant came in $600,000 below the request, the town is looking for ways to trim the project cost.

John Laidler can be reached at laidler@globe.com.
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