Haverhill's inner-city development is inching its way out of downtown.
The owners of a vacant lot on Orchard Street are hoping to begin construction of 16 condominiums before the end of the year, after receiving a special permit for the project from the City Council last week.
Located just north of downtown, Orchard Street will soon be adorned with four new three-story buildings that will house the condos, along with a garage under each unit.
The project is in line with what city officials said they hoped would happen after several old downtown shoe factories were converted to housing in recent years and other projects happened downtown — that those developments would have a ripple effect to neighboring streets.
Attorney William Faraci presented the development proposal to the council last week — seven years after the property's owner, Richard Early, submitted the same proposal for a special permit.
"It's a vacant lot that's overgrown and not conducive to anything," Faraci to the council. "Thank you for this opportunity to improve this area of Haverhill."
While the nation's sour economy kept the project from getting off the ground in 2010, those involved are optimistic that the condos will be built this time.
Faraci added that most new development in the area has been of the one-story variety and not mutli-level townhouses like those his clients will build with a developer from Newburyport, CBC Realty Investments.
Councilors are hopeful they'll soon provide the downtown with the sort of housing that can attract first-time homebuyers.
"There's a serious need, for first-time homebuyers, for housing under $300,000. We don't have many units under $300,000, at least of quality," said Councilor Thomas Sullivan. "I like how it's right above downtown."
Faraci assured the council that the condos will be sold at a fair price.
While there is nothing preventing a person from buying multiple units and renting them out, Faraci said he "doubts very much" that his clients are interested in being landlords.
Prior to voting in support of the project, Councilor William Macek said he has seen three new duplexes on nearby Franklin Street in the city's Acre neighborhood and that he hopes the Orchard Street project will continue to rejuvenate the area north of downtown.
Faraci said his clients are hopeful that the project can get under construction before the winter months.