Haverhill’s Appeal Spreads Along the Railroad Tracks
There is an old joke when talking about Maine where some character utters that famous line: “You Can’t Get There From Here”, but nothing could be further (does virtual distance mean this should be ‘farther’) from the truth when you hop aboard Amtrak’s Downeaster
train at Haverhill Station.
Little known fact: The Greater Haverhill Chamber of Commerce
also serves as station master for the Haverhill Train Station. (This amazing organization literally helps out with so much of the look and feel of our city especially with highly visible events like the Kids Artfest (this year on June 4th) and the Holiday Stroll.) The Heartbeat of Haverhill did not know about the train connection until we were graciously invited (thank you so much Beverly Dunn Donovan, Director of Economic Development of the Greater Haverhill Chamber of Commerce) to attend today’s meeting and hear how Haverhill is being presented to other station masters and personnel from the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority
Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority
Today’s breakfast event began with the group’s disembarkation at the Haverhill station and a short walk to the reception area at 90 Washington Street (owned by the Tap restaurant that is known for its craft beers, just not at this meeting). The guests are committed to the rail line from Haverhill, MA to Brunswick, ME and in attendance were representatives from stations in:
- Brunswick ME where you’ll find Bowdoin College, Southern Maine Community College, Southern New Hampshire University, and the University of Maine Engineering Department,
- Freeport ME (well known for shopping outlets and LLBean),
- Portland ME noted as a great foodie and arts town and a connecting point for the seasonal Cat to Nova Scotia,
- Old Orchard Beach considered Maine’s premier family beach resort with an amusement park,
- Saco Me known for all its offerings of outdoor and extreme sports as well as water parks and ziplining,
- Wells ME with seven miles of coastline, the nationally recognized Wells Estuarine Research Reserve at Laudholm and the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Preserve,
- Dover NH which like Haverhill with its Merrimack River is accented by the Cocheco River and enhanced by the Cocheco Arts Festival,
- Durham NH home of the University of New Hampshire and Adams Point Nature and Wildlife Center,
- Exeter NH home to Phillips Exeter Academy, quaint shops and restaurants and Exeter’s Revolutionary War Festival,
- and finally our wonderful Haverhill
Beverly Dunn introduced speakers poised to promote visitation to the Haverhill of today, and tomorrow.
- The Greater Haverhill Foundation’s Ron Trombley discussed Haverhill’s maritime past being reinvented alongside Harbor Place and the allure the more navigable Merrimack River has for all ages and boat sizes. Guests were interested in the possibility of disembarking in Haverhill perhaps with an inflatable kayak and being able to navigate the Merrimack River to other points like Newburyport and Amesbury.
- Mayor James Fiorentini welcomed the group and discussed challenges and successes while revitalizing the downtown.
- Jenny Arndt of Haverhill’s Riverfront Cultural District and Creative Haverhill talked about creative place making with minimal budgets and energizing our city’s downtown through arts and performances, some in unusual places like under used alleyways. From Jenny we learned just how walkable downtown Haverhill is. The entirety of the walk from the station to Harbor Place can be accomplished in a brisk walk of 7 minutes.
Matt Assia of Chinburg Properties is part of a team that plans to renovate the building at 24 Essex Street. The company will be restoring and rehabilitating the property to National Park Service standards for Historic Tax Credits and provide apartments and mixed used commercial space. This is the third building along the train line that the company is building. Others are in Dover NH and Saco ME. Mr Assia says they selected Haverhill because:
- Chinburg Properties prefers to restore historic buildings which display high quality features that aren’t duplicated these days,
- Haverhill facilitates permitting and doing business,
- Haverhill has a growing investment in the downtown area that will appeal to those who will want apartments whether they are Millennials or Empty Nesters.
- Haverhill has the commuter rail into Boston and the Downeaster that travels up through Maine (new stops are being considered), as well as other convenient commuting methods like nearby highways.
THOH learned from Patricia Quinn of Portland that travel into the Boston sports and concert events is a big seller, especially when the train hosts Tailgate Parties with a bar cart, food and fun in one of the coach cars.
Travel by train is not just a romantic sounding blast from the past, it can provide a contemporary get-away for anyone who wants to explore what the other stops have to offer, and, it allows us the opportunity to spread the word about why Haverhill is a city worth sharing.