The State of the City of Haverhill
2015 The Haverhill of Tomorrow
Ways and Means Committee chair, Brian Dempsey, State Senator Kathleen O’Connor Ives, State Representatives Linda Dean Campbell and Diana Dizoglio, State Representative and Other officials: School Committee, Mayors.
Surviving the Snow
As we gather here this evening, spring is finally around the corner. We take a moment to recall that a month ago we were buried under four consecutive snow storms that dumped a total of over eight (8) feet of snow on Haverhill. Our men and women worked incredibly long hours, and got us through this. Many of them are here this evening. Pease join me in thanking the men and women of the DPW and the plow drivers who got us through this winter.
I would also like to recognize and thank your hard working and dedicated city employees, many of whom are here in the room with us this evening, thank you for your service and hard work to move this city forward.
The 375th Anniversary
This year is the 375th anniversary of the settlement of the city of Haverhill. In that celebration and this evening we intend to celebrate our past, but tonight I also want to tell you about the bold future that awaits us: the Haverhill of tomorrow.
Over the years, we’ve faced many challenges and met them all. In my tenure, we’ve faced the largest municipal debt in the history of the state: a problem we still need assistance to face. We faced the recession. We faced rising gang violence.
Today, we face an entirely new set of challenges. Meeting those challenges is the key to a bright future for tomorrow.
Crime and Policing
When I spoke to you a year ago, we faced almost daily reports of gang activity. We pledged to add more resources to our force and to use them in smarter and better ways to keep our city safe.
We started by adding more police– In the past two budgets we added a total of eight new police officers.
We asked for outside agencies to work with us and we worked with Rep. Brian Dempsey, who once again came through for us, to obtain money for more patrols to high crime areas.
We became the first city in the eastern United States to obtain new software that could predict where crime was most likely to occur. Then we used our additional resources to concentrate our police where they were needed most.
Today, the results are in. Last year, crime was down 10%. We know there is much more to do but we also know that this was a good start.
Several members of our police department are here this evening, and I would like them to stand and be recognized for what is always a job well done.
We have made strides on crime, but today we have an old problem that has recurred here and everywhere: opiate addiction and opiate overdoses.
Last year, we started a task force, the HOPE task force, to help us educate the public on this issue and to help those who want and need treatment to obtain it.
This past year, we provided our first responders with Narcan, and they have already saved 11 lives. We know there is more to do and we will keep our work going.
A good present quality of life requires a good police presence. But if we want a great future for ourselves, and for our children, and for the Haverhill of tomorrow, that requires great schools.
Two years ago, we put over six million dollars into improvements in our schools—new roofs, new boilers and new windows. But when I addressed you a year ago, I said there was one school we could not fix: the Hunking School.
Last year, we joined together to ask our voters for assistance. Led by a dedicated group of volunteers called Haverhill for Hunking, we knocked on doors and carefully explained to voters that a new school was not a luxury: it was a necessity. When the results came in, the voters of this city came through overwhelmingly for public education.
Many of the parents who led that campaign are here this evening, and I would like to recognize them.
A week ago, the new Hunking School passed a major milestone. The design is now 90% completed. In only two months, we will break ground on the first new school built in our city in decades and will send a clear message, Haverhill stands for good education.
But we can’t stop there. We’ll work hard to improve other school buildings and this spring or summer, we will add a new playground at the Tilton School.
But the key to success isn’t school buildings; it is what happens inside those buildings. Here again, we’ve made progress but there is more to do.
The State measures that progress in levels—with level 1 schools being the highest level. Until last year, outside of charter schools, we never had a level 1 school here in Haverhill. Last year, thanks to the hard work of our school department, we have 4 level 1 schools.
Not all of our schools are level one schools, but we want them to be, we want every child to get a first class education here in Haverhill.
This year, the turnaround plans for our level 3 schools will make those schools better—but those plans must be amended to include extended learning time. Haverhill must be the leader in providing good schools to every resident in every section of the city. Good schools help us to keep our new young residents and attract new ones.
New Development Downtown
Attracting and keeping new residents is a key to the vibrant Haverhill of tomorrow. Thus far, most of our new growth has been concentrated downtown.
But when we got started, there were almost no young residents living downtown. Today our downtown has 850 new residents. Yahoo.com realty, says that our downtown restaurant zone can match those of capital cities. Today, the Haverhill Renaissance, the vision that we spoke of a decade ago, has become a reality with $150 million in new investment downtown.
This didn’t happen by accident. It happened because we put together a detailed plan to attract investment in our downtown and then implemented that plan.
All throughout the city, buildings that were once abandoned, the symbol of the past, are being redone, as symbols of our future. The abandoned Hamel Leather factory has become Hamel Mills lofts. The abandoned Fifth Avenue shoe has become the Cordovan. The abandoned AT&T has become the Hayes Building.
But the best is yet to come.
The Haverhill of tomorrow will include an even more vibrant downtown that is oriented to the waterfront and where even more of our abandoned buildings are reused as mixed use buildings.
This spring, the Haverhill Music center building, will be reborn as mixed use development.
Across the street, a building called the Surplus Office Supply Building will be redone this spring.
And further down the street, thanks to the tremendous work of Rep. Brian Dempsey and the partnership of the Haverhill Foundation and the Planning office of Urban Affairs, we have the wonderful Harbor Place project that everyone is talking about. It is a truly transformative project that will include a boardwalk along the river and will remake our downtown and our waterfront for decades to come. Harbor Place will, and already has, sparked new interest in our city. To those who made it possible: thank you!
What is coming next with development
The momentum we built proves the old adage: success breeds. Today, there is only one really large abandoned eyesore left downtown—the abandoned concrete building at 112 Essex Street across from Maria’s Restaurant. Tonight I am proud to announce that this abandoned eyesore is under agreement to put back to use as a mixed use housing and retail project. That project, if approved by the council and by the State for historic tax credits, will add an additional $22 million in investment in our downtown. I am pleased to introduce Michael Mattos from Peabody Construction who is leading this historic rehabilitation project.
Rosemont Street Industrial Park
Our downtown is the envy of all the cities in the Commonwealth. But not all of our progress is downtown. We’ve worked hard to streamline permitting, cut red tape and make Haverhill inviting for business.
Our tradition of bringing in new business continues tonight. In the industrial park off of Broadway, we cut welcome a new business this evening: Tremcar USA, Inc., specialists in truck tanks, which will employ fifteen people.
And in the industrial park off of Broadway, we worked with Southwick to make certain that they remain here and expanded here. Southwick will expand, keep 490 jobs here in Haverhill and add a minimum of 75 new jobs, at least 30% of which must be for Haverhill residents. In the Haverhill of tomorrow, like the Haverhill of today, we will be able to proudly say for years to come that nearly every Brooks Brothers suit made in America is made right here in Haverhill.
Our progress has been recognized by articles in the in The Wall street Journal, Boston Magazine, Chronicle and just last year, Money Magazine rated us as one of the top five cities to live in Massachusetts.
Our progress has also been recognized by Wall Street. A short decade ago, our bond rating was tied for the lowest in the State. Today, our bond rating is the highest it has been in our 300 year history.
Our progress is not limited to downtown and business parks. We’ve worked hard to improve every neighborhood in the city but there is more to do.
In Riverside, we’ve opened up the river and made Water Street and the Buttonwoods trails visible again. Our vision is that in the Haverhill of tomorrow, Water Street will be a linear park where residents can ride a bike, walk or picnic along a beautiful view overlooking the waterfront.
We’ve made improvements to Riverside Park, and this year, we’ll announce a program to do more.
In Bradford, we break ground this spring on completing the first phase of the new rail trail. The Haverhill of tomorrow will include a rail trail as part of a beautiful series of parks and playgrounds, an emerald necklace, all along the waterfront.
Government can only do so much. Much of the investment along the waterfront must come from the private sector. The waterfront zoning law we passed last year will begin to bear fruit this year and new projects will be proposed along the waterfront. The vision that you and I have talked about for so long, the vision to reorient Haverhill to the waterfront, is fast becoming a reality.
Mt. Washington and the Acre
In Mt. Washington area and the lower acre, we’ve made improvements to the Consentino School and the Tilton School, and thanks to a State grant, we’ve put in over $1 million to improve Swasey field. This year, we’ll finish phase 2. We’ve improved playgrounds and aggressively attacked and forced the rehabilitation of abandoned and blighted buildings.
But it’s not buildings that make a neighborhood. It’s people.
Not all of our residents can see, or feel the improvements we have made. They see areas where crime is going down, but they also see, as we do, that there is more to do.
Now, when you look at a crime map of Haverhill you notice something astounding. There are only two areas where there is any substantial crime at all, and these are the areas where we have concentrated our resources.
And if you overlay those areas with another map, our homeownership map, you notice that the more owner occupants you have in an area, the lower the incidence of crime.
A century ago, we saw the same problems and we saw new immigrants, move into these same areas—buy homes, fix them up, and fix up their neighborhoods.
This isn’t something I read about in a history book. It is something I saw with my own eyes as I saw my immigrant grandparents work 15 to 18 hours a day, and then come home to fix their homes, work their gardens and build neighborhoods that were clean and safe.
That same principle, the principle that first time homebuyers can fix the houses in a neighborhood and at the same time, fix the entire neighborhood that same principle can work again today.
Our first time homebuyer program
Last year, we used some of our Federal block grant money, to provide opportunity for five (5) first time home buyers to buy homes and live in them in our inner city. Two of those urban pioneers are here this evening and I would like to welcome Mr. and Mrs. Pedro Alvarado and Sandra Ramos.
Now it’s time to expand that program. Tonight, I announce our expanded First Time Homebuyer program. This coming year, we will take some of our toughest streets and use our Federal block grant money to incentivize up to ten families to buy and rehabilitate homes that they will live in and care for a minimum of five years.
The Haverhill of tomorrow must include clean streets, safe streets and good schools in every single neighborhood in the city.
The Haverhill of tomorrow must also be affordable. Our residents today face rapidly rising electric bills.
To try to help our residents, we are instituting our new municipal energy aggregation program. The concept is simple: bundle all the bills for all city residents together, go out to bid and try to get them a better deal. This has worked to lower the electricity bills of residents in other cities. We do not know for certain if it will work here, but we do certainly know that our citizens are hurting. We know also the words of Franklin Roosevelt:
“It is common sense to take a method and try it: If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something.”
For all of our progress we know that there are challenges ahead. Today, the Hale debt is still with us and we still need assistance with it.
Today, we are also faced with new burdens, the burden of new Federal storm water and sewer regulations. These new Federal government regulations will require millions of dollars in capital costs, and millions more in operating costs.
Meeting these new challenges will be difficult and will require us to constantly find ways to make government more efficient.
Our need to constantly innovate is why, late last year, we installed new constituent services software called Maintstar making us one of the technology leaders in the State and making it easier and more efficient for us to handle 919 constituent requests, repair 15 storm drains, trim 68 trees, repair 23 sidewalks and patch over 300 potholes.
Solar Farm at Landfill
And our need for constant innovation is why, this year, we will take the steps to turn our old landfill into a solar farm and over the next twenty years generate up to $7.5 million in new revenue for our taxpayers. That’s why later this year, we will introduce a new energy saving program for our schools to help them improve our schools and save money on energy.
We know that there are challenges ahead and we will meet them.
But for all of the challenges that we know lie ahead, we also know this. We have weathered the past decade and come out better than anyone ever dreamed we could. And we know that working together we have met every burden, climbed every mountain and made this city the great city we are tonight.
Last week marked the last day of winter, and the last day of the Woolworth building. Tonight marks the dawn of a new era for our city.
Tonight I can tell you confidently: our future is bright and the State of our city is strong.
Thank you for listening.