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City looks to create dining, retail on riverfront boardwalk

October 15, 2020 : The Haverhill Gazette, by Mike LaBella

Imagine taking a stroll along the boardwalk overlooking the Merrimack River and pausing for a quick lunch, or maybe to browse the wares of local retailers and artists.

This is the kind of thing the Greater Haverhill Chamber of Commerce has in mind as it works to create dining and retail space on the boardwalk, all of it covered by a retractable, fabric roof.

The plan is being designed by Fishbrook Design Studio on Wingate Street and will also include chairs, tables for dining and displays, planters, lighting, and other hardware.

This effort is intended to help local businesses recover from losses resulting from the coronavirus pandemic.

The chamber was recently given a $10,000 grant from the state agency MassDevelopment to create a “booth’let” — a type of covered and lighted multi-use platform.

"We're putting to use the boardwalk riverfront, which is beautiful, for the benefit of downtown restaurants, retailers and pop-up events," said Dougan Sherwood, president of the Greater Haverhill Chamber. "One of the main ways we envision this happening is by providing additional outdoor seating."

Sherwood said the chamber is working with the city to get the new structure in place possibly in time for the holidays and if not, for next spring.

"We think by creating this platform, it will draw attention to the entire boardwalk and will hopefully encourage people to take advantage of it," he said. "We'll be working on this over the next few months as part of the new activity taking place on the boardwalk, including the opening of Barrio Tacos (restaurant) and the planned opening of Sal Lupoli's new Italian restaurant called Bosa (and) a new commercial and residential project on Merrimack Street called The Heights."

Sherwood said the grant received by the chamber offers an additional $15,000 if the chamber can raise the same amount through a campaign it plans to launch in coming weeks. If the chamber reaches its $15,000 goal, it will receive a matching grant from MassDevelopment.

The $10,000 grant was awarded through MassDevelopment’s special Commonwealth Places COVID-19 Response Round: Resurgent Places, which provides money to help local economic recovery efforts during the pandemic.

"MassDevelopment’s Commonwealth Places program is a resource to help communities implement ... projects that improve public spaces, create foot traffic and stimulate economic activity,” said Lauren Liss, president and CEO of MassDevelopment.

MassDevelopment, the state’s finance and development agency, works with businesses, nonprofits, banks and communities to stimulate economic growth. During FY2019, MassDevelopment financed or managed 316 projects generating investment of more than $2 billion in the state's economy. These projects are estimated to create or support 9,743 jobs and build or preserve 1,992 housing units.